Under the Rubble, the Dance Floor: A report-back from last night’s Solstice Party at Weelaunee People’s Park

Yesterday, December 21, 2022, Ryan Millsap of Blackhall Studios and his contractors destroyed the Weelaunee People’s Park trailhead and bike path, leaving behind piles of rubble and attempting to communicate that the public park is closed to the public.

Millsap, of Blackhall Studios, destroyed a public biking path leading from the parking lot of Weelaunee People’s Park all the way to Weelaunee People’s Garden.

The South River Forest Coalition (SRFC) noted on their Instagram yesterday that Millsap’s destruction is explicitly against his Real Estate Agreement with Dekalb County, which states that “Blackhall will employ a phased construction where the improvements on the new County property will be constructed in a coordinated schedule … to minimize the loss of use by citizens.”

The SRFC, alongside the South River Watershed Alliance, is currently battling Dekalb County and Blackhall Studios in court over the proposed land swap. They added that “[t]his is Millsap’s attempt to drag out and muddy our suit against him by riding the narrative being pushed by the Atlanta Police Foundation,” noting that “he is escalating the situation for his own capitalist agenda.”

Despite Millsap’s attempt to break the movement to defend the Atlanta forest, approximately 75 people came together in the parking lot of Weelaunee People’s Park last night to celebrate the changing season and welcome the official start of winter.

Attendees of the Weelaunee People’s Park Solstice Party submitted the following report-back from the Solstice Party:

“It was nice to see what was, at first, a rather heartbreaking scene of destruction from Millsap’s rampaging tantrum turn into a scene of inspiration, gathering, and rebuilding from the rubble.

A crater where Millsap’s contractors ripped a tree out of the ground was turned into a big, warm fire pit lined with pieces of rubble from the broken up path.

The gazebo made a nice place to hang the “Free Groceries” sign, and the truck bed trailer was strung with lights and decorated with flowers and wreaths.

The torn up bike path became a “mountain biking” segment of the trail, and some of the ruthlessly toppled trees (every single tree in the lot killed, except the fig tree planted by the preschoolers, somehow) offered dry leaves and dead branches for fueling the fire.

Overall, about 75 people came to the Solstice Party. There were free groceries, a communal feast, karaoke singing, tarot readings, dancing, lighting of a menorah, and even more new faces (many local), including one young person who drove from many hours away with nothing but a paper map and flip phone after hearing about the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement on the news.

We were struck by the fact that it didn’t even seem to be a question on people’s minds about whether or not they should return to the Weelaunee People’s Park and hold the weekly Wednesday gatherings there.

The only question seemed to be: which side of the rubble should the dance floor and food tables go?”

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