Atlanta church rallies behind family in DeKalb Sheriff's raid
Ken Watts | 8/19/2013, 10 p.m.
ATLANTA An East Atlanta Church on August 18 offered spiritual and emotional support for Ellenwood family seen in a graphic YouTube video that depicts a late night confrontation with DeKalb Sherff’s deputies.
Civil rights leader Rev. Timothy McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church on Moreland Avenue and the New Order Human Rights Organization invited Natania Griffin and her two adult sons, Donovan Hall, 23, and 20-year-old Devon to pray with the congregation.
“After surviving the raid on their house, the family and their supporters are asking the thousands who have viewed the video to join them in prayer as they continue their fight for justice,” New Order said in a press release.
McDonald said he and the activists invited the family “to demonstrate that they are not alone and the community is behind them.”
“This is very positive and we’re grateful everyone has embraced us," Griffin said. "We feel better knowing we have the community’s support.”
The family, who were accompanied by their new lawyer, Mawuli Mel Davis of the Davis Bozeman Law Firm, spent most of the service seated with the congregation. At one point McDonald called them to the front of the sancutary where they joined hands with church members and bowed their heads in prayer.
“I pray that the family will feel the power of our prayer,” Mcdonald said in his sermon. “When the hand of God moves, everybody has to step aside – governors, mayors, sheriffs, and chiefs of police.”
Davis said his Decatur-based law firm will represent Griffin and her sons in a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff’s office. He announced on Aug. 16 that his firm will take the case, saying it’s clear the family’s civil rights were violated.
The 19-minute video has attracted more than 325,000 views on YouTube and generated heated debate on social media.
Deputies knocked on the family’s door at 1:30 a.m. on July 26 to serve an arrest warrant on Griffin for a $1000 civil fine that was 15 days late. On the video, deputies are heard using foul language and threatening to stun-gun and “cane” Griffin and her sons. Donovan Hall said deputies threw him and his brother to the floor and roughed them up while handcuffing them.
Sheriff Thomas Brown said he was “appalled by the deputies’ language,” though an internal investigation turned up no evidence of physical abuse.
Brown changed his office’s policy on serving civil warrants. On Aug. 12, he established an 11 p.m. cutoff and limited the serving of warrants to one day a week. The Sheriff also suspended three of the deputies and said their supervisor will be demoted if he doesn’t retire on Aug. 30 as planned.
McDonald said the policy change is a welcome gesture that will protect the deputies as well as the public.
“We appreciate the law officers and the dangerous job that they do. But the new policy will cause them to think twice or a third time when they go to peoples’ homes,” McDonald said.