MIDTOWN ATLANTA, Ga. – Sunday evening, two third-floor loft dwellers were attempting to enjoy the remnant of their weekend, when war broke out.
The young men had their windows open only to find the fresh evening air fouled by the sounds from a crueler side of life coming from the park bench below them. This was not the first time they had been bothered by the loud and constant talking. They knew their choices. They could have turned up their TV again, or closed the window. They could have attempted to negotiate with the men on the bench to quiet down. Or, as they had done before, they could have complained to the police. They just knew they couldn’t ignore it. That, and the Hawks had just lost to Cleveland.
There is no confirmation on how long they deliberated, but it is assumed their IQ’s and judgment declined with their continued alcohol consumption. They decided to act. Taking a dozen eggs from the fridge, they took positions on their balcony. With shock and awe, they attacked.
The homeless men on the bench were taken totally by surprise. For a brief moment, they laughed with and at one another. Had they been given a chance, they probably would have requested their eggs prepared differently. But as the bombardment continued, their levity turned to anger. Their disorientation to resolve. They knew that their unknown enemy had the strategic advantage of the high ground, but they had to make their stand. They had no place to go. These men of the street had no weaponized food products to return fire, so they acted with instinct. Grabbing what was close at hand, they counter attacked with rocks.
Rocks thrown at a high target in darkness are not known to be precision weapons. This was again proven.
It was unknown to the men at the bench, that the commotion had attracted the attention of the City of Atlanta Policeman who lives one floor up and one apartment over from their target. The egg tossers had retreated to the safety inside when the officer came out on his balcony. Using his training and experience, he quickly assessed the situation. Two men. Black. Mid-thirties to mid-forties. One about 5’7“. The other about 6’1”. Agitated. Probably intoxicated. Yelling and throwing rocks at the apartment building. He recognized the men as Bull and Red. But before he could announce himself, an errant rock hit him and drew blood*.
The risks of war can never truly be estimated. But in retrospect, what happened next should have seemed inevitable. Within moments, the sounds of sirens could be heard. Seconds later, flashing and colored lights from thirteen Atlanta police cars broke the darkness.
Encircled by more than dozen or so of Atlanta’s finest, Bull and Red should have done as they were told, but they were angry and felt justified in their actions. The police, they felt, should be after those punks who started it. They wanted desperately to tell their side of the story.
The police, on the other hand, only knew that these two drunk and violent men had hit one of their brothers-in-blue with a rock (not to be confused with Iraq). The situation had to be assumed to be dangerous. The police are trained to first stabilize a situation like this. They needed for Bull and Red to quiet and assume the position. When Bull and Red resisted, the police had no choice but to use pepper spray. When that was not sufficient, they then subdued the men with means deemed necessary.
Bull and Red were taken to Grady Hospital for their injuries before going to jail. Disturbing the peace, public drunkenness and resisting arrest will be enough to keep them there for at least a few weeks. They both have prior offenses. If assault on a police officer is added, they could go away for years.
So what are the lessons of war? According to Curtis, who is also homeless, often in the park, and told me this story, the lesson is: “It’s stupid. You can’t win. Walk away. Just got to let it go.” Curtis also was quick to point out that, “those people [egg tossers] have lawyers and will always win.”
So here’s the box score:
• Total cost: less than a dozen eggs.
• Achieved: complete objective.
• Plus, they have stories to tell their buddies.
• Remain anonymous.
Mark and Red:
• Total cost: pain and suffering, plus at least a couple of weeks in jail, maybe more.
• Achieved nothing, unless you count increased bitterness.
City of Atlanta:
• Total cost: many thousands of dollars in police time, medical expenses, incarceration and legal expenses.
• Achieved: one night of peace for the egg tossers.
The lessons of war? War sucks. Particularly for the powerless and those who have to pick up the pieces.
*There were conflicting reports on whether the officer was actually hit. Another eyewitness, Brian, claims that the rock actually hit the officer’s door and the entire event was blown out of proportion. Brian also said that when the egg tossers ran out of their preferred ammunition, they resorted to throwing dinner plates.
Update: Now that he’s out, Red says they weren’t throwing rocks. They were throwing bottles.