Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort: “I’m hungry for freedom! I’m hungry for justice! And I’m hungry for a Fair Food commitment from Wendy’s…”

Return to Human Rights Tour unites with social justice movements, past and present, in Atlanta, Georgia!

Fresh off an exciting launch at the University of Florida in Gainesville, farmworkers from Immokalee and their allies arrived in Atlanta yesterday for Day 2 of the Return to Human Rights Tour.  After catching up on some much-needed rest at the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church on the outskirts of the historic city, the tour crew headed into the city proper to get ready for an evening rush hour action at Wendy’s.

Before starting the protest, however, CIW members took the afternoon hours to tour Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, a powerful, interactive museum exploring the history of the American civil rights movement as well as modern-day movements for human rights across the country and around the globe.  Seeing their own unflagging struggle for human rights in the fields mirrored in the black and white photos from half a century ago, tour participants felt at home among the proud ranks of women and men who have, over the centuries, bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

Buoyed by their communion with civil rights history, the tour crew spent the rest of afternoon strengthening ties with Atlanta’s many communities of faith and mobilizing local allies, from the Berea Mennonite Church to students at Emory University, who pledged to make their voices heard at the Wendy’s action later on that day…

… and heard they were!  As the sun began to sink in the sky, and thousands of Atlantans drove home from work, nearly 100 students, people of faith, and community leaders grabbed protest signs, flags, and banners and began a spirited picket outside the Wendy’s in the heart of Atlanta:

The protest was supported by a broad spectrum of organizations dedicated to today’s human rights battles, including Project South, Freedom University, Jobs with Justice, Candler Theological Seminary, Grace United Methodist Church, and many others…

But it wasn’t only seasoned local leaders who took part in the late afternoon protest.  Residents of Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward were drawn in by the swelling chants and music…

… and some of Wendy’s youngest neighbors even picked up their own flags to join in the chants!

The highlight of the action, which continued to grow with scores of new protesters joining the crowd over the course of the hour, was the final rally.  Community leaders who joined CIW members for the manager delegation brought the protest to a spirited culmination with rousing calls for action, drawing round after round of cheers from the crowd.  Among them were Nautica Jenkins, of Project South:

This campaign really hits home because it could easily be one of my people, it could easily be someone that I know at home, that is being exploited for their work… like I said inside Wendy’s, it could easily be them that’s trying to fight for their rights, for their human rights, so that they can live — it is horrible that people have to work so hard just to live a simple life.

…. Ashley Rivas-Triana from Freedom University….

In the fields, in Immokalee, across the nation, I see myself, I see my parents, I see my community… What is happening out there is not right.  What we are doing here, is.  What we are doing here is fighting for the rights of everyone.  We are building this movement up across the country, we are going to go the headquarters of Wendy’s, and we’re going to tell them enough is enough!  Sign the Fair Food Agreement now!

…. and not just one, but two state representatives, Representative Park Cannon and State Senator Vincent Fort, the latter of whom brought the day full circle with some closing words for the crowd gathered in front of Wendy’s:

How many of you all are from out of town?  Raise your hands real high.  I welcome you to Atlanta.  I welcome you to the home of Dr. King.  I welcome you to the home of the Civil Rights movement… It is entirely appropriate that you do what Dr. King said:  Exercising your right to protest, for right.  We appreciate you for that.  But I got to tell you, I’m hungry… but I ain’t hungry for a double stack.  I’m hungry for freedom!  I’m hungry for Justice!  And I’m hungry for a Fair Food commitment from Wendy’s!  So don’t you get weary, you’re doing God’s work.  God be with you!

On that high note, the tour crew packed up the art and got back on the road to Nashville, Tennessee, for the next stop on the Return to Human Rights Tour.  Make sure to stay tuned for more tour updates, and more news about the quickly-approaching, weeklong fast by students at The Ohio State University and Columbus community members in Wendy’s home town, set to begin this coming Monday!