An Atlanta City Council member and advocate for police reform saw his car stolen on Wednesday by four kids during the middle of the day – all right before his eyes. But the incident has not weakened his stance on defunding the police amid an uptick in crime in the southern city.
Antonio Brown, an Atlanta city councilman who is running for mayor to succeed incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms, was visiting a local business owner around noon on Wednesday when he saw four young Black males between the ages of 8 and 11 walk past his parked car. One of the older boys suddenly got into Mr Brown’s Mercedes SUV and started speeding away, according to a police report. Mr Brown and business owner Benjamin Norman attempted to stop the carjacking, with Mr Brown being dragged by the moving vehicle for about a block before letting go, police said. The car has not yet been recovered.
Brown previous joined six of his city council colleagues in a vote to cut $73 million from Atlanta’s police budget in a measure that was ultimately voted down, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. During a Zoom press conference on Thursday, Mr Brown told The Independent that no amount of additional police force could have prevented his car from being stolen.
“This was not a circumstance of a number of officers on the beat,” Mr Brown told The Independent when asked for his response to critics who would argue the incident proves the need for strong policing. “This was a circumstance of these kids operating within whatever they felt was necessary for their own survival, a situation of generational poverty and acting on this basis of survival.”
Speaking to the age of the suspects, Mr Brown added that the kids who stole his car appeared “scared”.
“They looked as though this wasn’t a joyride for them,” he said. “They were just walking around the corner of a store and saw an opportunity. The opportunity was: here’s this car and I was four feet away from it.”
Mr Brown’s mayoral campaign platform calls for several policing reforms as the US has reckoned with incident after incident of young Black men dying at the hands of police. His proposals include improved officer training, expanding the use of unarmed responders and supporting at-risk youths so they don’t end up in the criminal justice pipeline to begin with.
Mr Brown pointed to the suspects’ desperation in committing the blatant act.
“To get into a car and wrestle with two grown men, something’s not right with that circumstance.”