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Section 8 Housing Riots in Georgia – A Premonition of Things to Come

August 15, 2010

Housing crisis in Georgia; 62 injured

UPDATE (11:24 PM Eastern): Officials now estimate that a crowd of 30,000 turned out, three times what they had originally anticipated. Some in attendance may have been accompanying actual applicants even if they were not applying themselves. 13,000 applications were handed out.

The large numbers indicate a huge demand, but there is literally no supply. The housing agency director “stressed that none of her agency’s 455 housing aid vouchers is available at the moment.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Concern is rising that a similar scene could occur Thursday when the housing authority of this small city begins accepting the completed applications. Wednesday’s event was only to hand out the paperwork. The housing authority will begin accepting applications at 9 a.m.”

ORIGINAL STORY

Thirty thousand people turned out in East Point on Wednesday seeking applications for government-subsidized housing, and their confusion and frustration, combined with the summer heat, led to a chaotic mob scene that left 62 people injured.

At the Tri-Cities Plaza Shopping Center, emergency vehicles passed each other, transporting 20 people to hospitals. Medical and police command posts were set up on scene. East Point police wore riot gear. Officers from four other agencies supported them. Yet no arrests were made.

All of this resulted from people attempting to obtain Section 8 housing applications and, against long odds, later securing vouchers for affordable residences. Some waited in line for two days for the applications.

Felecia McGhee, who came in search of her own Section 8 assistance, saw two small children trampled when people rushed the building that held the applications. When a group of people who had been waiting hours in a line were told to move to another line, people started pushing, shoving and cursing, witnesses said.

“It was terrible,” Thaddeus Brookins said. “Lot of people. People pushing people, knocking people over. People getting hurt.”

“East Point, to me, is indicative of the problem,” said Dennis Williams, a Georgia Department of Community affairs assistant commissioner. “It just goes to show you the situation is pretty dire.”

At an ensuing news conference, East Point officials tried to describe the day as a success, an assessment that was roundly challenged by those who had witnessed or been involved in the unruly scene.

Staff writers Marcus K. Garner, Rhonda Cook and Mike Morriss contributed to this article.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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