The mayor of Atlanta is being accused of racism for banning teens from selling bottled water on the streets after an 18-year-old was shot dead.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined in an effort with the Atlanta Police Department to curb sales of water bottles by the “water boys” and cited the rise in violent confrontations.
“We appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of youth who are selling water to motorists,” said Mayor Bottoms in the statement. “But we have seen an increase in unsafe and violent activity in some locations and cannot allow it to continue. It’s going to take a village and we are working with our partners to provide outreach and resources to these young people to help them gain access to job opportunities, workforce training, and educational programs.”
‘Ten dollars is what caused Jalanni his life’
The increased effort to end the water bottle sales comes after the death of Jalanni Pless, 18, who was trying to sell water bottles on the street at the time.
Pless was shot and killed on June 27. His family told WXIA-TV that his friends told them that he was killed over a $10 bill.
According to their account of the incident, the teen was selling a bottle of water to a motorist when a teenager with another group selling water got angry with the competition. After a physical altercation, the teen allegedly returned with a gun and gunned down Pless.
“Ten dollars is what caused Jalanni his life. Ten dollars. Think about that,” said his mother.
His mother opened a GoFundMe account to help with burial costs.
In another frightening incident, a black female was assaulted by a group of “water boys.” Antoinette Stevens said that a group of teens demanded that she buy water from them, and then one reached into her car and snatched her purse. When she ran after him, another one stole her car.
“I jumped through the window and tried to get my car. Try to get him to stop. And he drove into oncoming traffic and crashed the car, and then ran,” Stevens said
She said she was knocked to the ground and received a black eye in the struggle.
Mayor accused of racism
Some critics of the move to ban water selling said on social media that it was motivated by racism.
“Just saw a thread under it Black folks talking down on these kids in Atlanta selling water. Man this city really got coons speaking anti-Black rhetoric cause they may drive a decent car type . ATL got to get some of these clowns out of here. This is beyond sad,” said one Twitter user.
“I’ve seen the complaints about the water boys in Atlanta and one thing I personally refuse to do, is be afraid of black children. Y’all trippin with some of the comments I’ve seen regarding that,” said one
commenter on Twitter.
“Yeah, this seems like some BS. I suspect it’s about the gentrifying city not liking black kids hawking water on the street corner which, by other standards, in entrepreneurial. Karen always finds a way,” said
another from New York.
“Nah this is some elitist BS. There hasn’t been any stories of those kids being injured or anything. This is about perception and that’s it,”
“What happens to the kids who continue to sell water bc they need the immediate income? Are they thrown into the criminal justice system? This seems like another way to demonize anything Black kids engage in. Surely there is a way to protect them without criminalizing the activity,”
said another user who described herself as “pro-Black.”
“Kids have been doing this for decades in nearly EVERY MAJOR CITY in the country btw. This is yet another example of Atlanta “elites” occupying Black spaces, using their positional power to influence politics, and police what they deem dangerous (which in this case is Black kids),”
said another user.
The mayor is expected to announce more policy changes on Friday in response to the “water boys” in Atlanta.
Here’s a local news story about the Atlanta water boys:
“His last words were, ‘Mom, I feel like something is not right.'”