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Message From The President

Wednesday, July 1, 2020  
Posted by: Jordan Coleman
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This Message was originally sent on June 5th, before the killing of Breonna Taylor came to light and before the killing of Rayshard Brooks.


The deaths in Minneapolis and Brunswick are not new to us. George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have too many forebears, recent and historical, including in my neighborhood of Druid Hills and nearby downtown Decatur where plaques will soon mark sites where black Americans were lynched. As lawyers and members of the Atlanta Bar Association, we have sworn to uphold the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions and laws. So we condemn racism and the killings of black Americans. And we oppose discrimination of all kinds and any violence borne of it.


As lawyers, we bring much to this moment, not least that every day we keep cool heads and hold seemingly contradictory truths in tension. So we condemn police officers who abuse their power and harm others and police departments that regularly visit undue force on blacks and others. We also defend the protesters’ and every citizen’s right to protest peacefully. At the same time, we applaud our police officers as hard-working public servants doing their best in difficult circumstances to protect the peace. And we denounce those who do violence to property and lives and endanger the peace. We also hew to the rule of law, yet acknowledge that the law is imperfect and flawed and must always change, reform, and renew itself. We insist that the law be enforced and due process be granted, but we continuously explore ways to dismantle discrimination in the law.


Whatever we bring to this moment will be for naught, though, if we don’t do more. We must hear those who are angry and open ourselves to realities that even if not ours are just as real. Please reach out to black colleagues and friends, not because this is their problem (it belongs to all of us), but just to see how they’re doing. Starting the difficult conversations about race and bias in our own circles will also help us hear and lead us to change. But our words are empty if we don’t act, if we don’t stand for justice and oppose violence and take steps toward those ends, whatever that looks like for each of us. And we must hope, trusting in the promise of the law, as Lincoln did in another difficult moment when he said that “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” we can reach a “just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”


Soon you’ll hear from the Bar again about some concrete ways you can act. Meanwhile, I invite you to reach out to me if you want to talk about any of these matters. Last, beset as we are not only by this but by a public health crisis, loss of life, social distancing, record unemployment, a recession, extreme partisanship, and more, please take care of yourself. And stay well.


Craig Cleland

Atlanta Bar President

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