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ATLANTA, Ga. — Despite the lengthy Thanksgiving Holiday, young Atlantians managed to stay civically engaged over the weekend at the Atlanta Mayoral Verzez Battle hosted by The People’s Uprising (TPU). Candidates Felicia Moore, an Atlanta transplant from Indianapolis, Indiana, and Andre Dickens, an ATL native, orally duked it out on stage in town hall fashion fit for millennials.

The high-energy event was packed and included a DJ and MC. Notwithstanding the 20-years Moore has served on the City Council, Dickens stood out as the house favorite, evident by the crowd’s eruption when he stepped onto the stage. Both serve on the City Council: Moore as President, and Dickens as Post 3 council member.

Notably, Dickens is currently leading in the polls at 53.4%. Moore trails behind at 46.6%

They are Divine Nine members, Moore — Alpha Kappa Alpha and Dickens — Kappa Alpha Psi. 

Youth Civic Engagement

As the event was geared towards the next generation of leaders, so were Hot 107.9’s J-Nicks’ questions to the candidates. “How will you be including the ideas and voices of young people in your administration?” 

Dickens answered, “I revamped the Atlanta Youth Commission as a City Council Member. The Atlanta Youth Commission has 30 youth who are able to meet with adults and be able to bring policy and solutions and ideas to the city council and the government…It shows youth how to run government, how to lead, but also for us to hear their ideas.” 

“Our Atlanta Mayoral Verzez is all about bringing creativity into civic engagement. If we want to connect with younger voters, we need to think untraditionally and from a position of innovation,” Julius Thomas, CEO of The People’s Uprising, said. 

Moore also weighed in, stating, “I made sure that I hired young people in my staff for internships. Those who had trouble, sometimes in the community, brought them in and put them under my wing.” 

Each Verzez round began with a HipHop song chosen by the candidates. For the social justice round, Moore chose “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. Moore expressed that Fight the Power was her theme song. 

Moore expressed, “I want [police] to keep us safe, but I also want people to feel safe when they interact with [police].” She also proposes an anonymous tip line that citizens could call as many African Americans fear criminal retaliation for speaking with police.

Dickens stated, “We [Atlanta] have to be the home of criminal justice reform.” His proposal is a Safe Streets Atlanta Plan. “It’s a balanced approach to safety and justice. We don’t just need cops with badges and guns trying to solve all of our problems. We must have the community’s hands on the table. And so this is why I made sure that we want to do community-based policing.” 

Dickens went on to say that while serving on the city council, he required that two citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 be added to the citizens’ review board so that the youth voice could be included in the police reform conversation and policy changes.

Qualified Immunity

When asked about police officers having qualified immunity and how they would hold police officers accountable when they violate citizens’ rights, here’s what both candidates had to say:

Dickens on Qualified Immunity

Dickens responded, “Last year, I was one of the co-authors [on city council] of the #8CantWait, where we require police officers to have the duty to intervene. If one officer sees another officer acting in a wrong way, doing something illegal or harming a citizen, this officer has to make sure they take that officer and arrest them,” adding, “officers have to be held to a higher standard. And that’s something that I’ll make sure that I’ll put in place.    

The City of Atlanta currently has 6 of 8 of the #8CantWait policies implemented. The Atlanta Police Department doesn’t require that police officers exhaust all alternatives before shooting, nor does it ban shooting at moving vehicles. Had all #8CantWait policies been implemented Rashard Brooks and many others would still be alive. 

Moore on Qualified Immunity 

“I’m always for transparency. I’m always for ethics, and I’m certainly for accountability. It doesn’t matter if it’s an elected official or an officer.” She went on to say, “We have to make sure that we are transparent with the public about what occurred — and how it occurred…As it relates to qualified immunity, I believe it’s something that we certainly need to look at and advocate for if we can find a good balance.” 

Moore seemingly has transparency issues dating back a decade, which has citizens questioning whether she’ll be a transparent mayor.

In 2011, she initially opposed the Atlanta City Council’s seven Committee Briefings being open to the public and again in 2018, by opposing the idea of videotaping the Committee Briefings for public viewing. 

Most recently, a deleted Instagram post from a controversial endorsement by Lee Clevenger She has since rejected Clevenger’s endorsement, returned his campaign donation, and distanced herself.

The Moore Camp issued the following statement to The Atlanta Voice

“It was an unfortunate statement by that constituent, and I should have corrected him or walked away. As everyone in Atlanta knows, I certainly do not share his beliefs about most of our past mayors, nor those views he shared on social media. I apologize to anyone hurt by that post.” 

The final day to vote in the Atlanta Mayoral Race runoff is Tuesday, November 30, 2021.

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...

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