Parks are for the People: The Piedmont Park Riot and the Politics of Late 1960s Atlanta


“In the summer of 1967, Atlanta Journal reporter Michael Palmer went undercover as a hippie. Hoping to provide his readers with some insight into a movement that had recently made its way into the national consciousness, Palmer put on a ‘white, ruffled shirt, and old vest, levies [sic] frayed at the cuffs’ and stealthily entered the city’s small but noticeable hippie community. In a series of articles that followed this experience, Palmer discussed with a mixture of dismissal and despair what he encountered during his five weeks of undercover research – from watching people take drugs in a ‘crash pad’ to participating in a ‘love-in’ at Piedmont Park. While Palmer ultimately provided little real insight into the countercultural mindset, he did make his readers very aware that something new and different was happening in Midtown Atlanta. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the section of the city that straddled Peachtree Street for several blocks, running from roughly Seventeenth Street down to Tenth Street, served as Atlanta’s own version of San Francisco’s famed Haight-Ashbury district. This part of Midtown had acquired several names over the years – Tight Squeeze, the 10th Street Business District and the 14th Street Area – but became popularly known as ‘the Strip’ during its countercultural heyday.3 The area had already developed a reputation as a bohemian destination by the early 1960s – one reporter described it as ‘Atlanta’s own Greenwich Village’ – due to its proximity to the Atlanta College of Art and the Atlanta Memorial Arts Center, as well as its abundance of affordable housing for young adults moving to the city. By the middle of the decade a small community of hippies found a spiritual home with the opening of the Catacombs coffeehouse on Fourteenth Street. The area’s ‘hip’ population – which included not only ‘real’ hippies but also political radicals, members of motorcycle gangs, left-leaning religious leaders, artists, teenage runaways, drug dealers, sympathetic lawyers, social workers, business owners, and teenage ‘plastic hippies,’ who visited the Strip on the weekends but then returned to their suburban homes on Sunday evenings – grew significantly in 1967 as the counterculture gained national recognition and thousands of curious teenagers and young adults made their way to hippie neighborhoods across the nation during the Summer of Love. …”
Atlanta Studies


Young people march in protest against police tactics after a “Great Speckled Bird” sponsored concert, Atlanta, Georgia, September 27, 1969.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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