“I had to step to folk real
aggressive, like ‘I never seen you ‘round here what’s your
business?’ He said he was going to see a friend but the name ain’t
hold weight. We had to move on him….everyday s**t.”
What sounds like a sad anecdote of inner-city living, where
intra-segregation and herd mentality turns blacks against each other,
is actually something much different.
Dontae “Tater” Briggs and his loose “crew” of ex-cons have
been loitering and–in the eyes of some citizens–terrorizing
the upscale Lake View Shopping Center for close to eight months.
Lake View was built over ground that once stood home to Cedarbrook
apartment complex, a notorious haven for drug dealing, prostitution
and gun violence in Atlanta’s turbulent 1990s.
The area that was once Briggs’ home is now experiencing the
effects of gentrification, the controversial reality of driving out
low income residents for posh high rises and big time chain stores.
Crackhouses have been replaced by Cracker Barrels. The last bastion
for affordable housing in the city is now the domain of 8 dollar
T Woods, Briggs’ “man on the inside,” adheres to the crew’s “women and children” rule
Briggs, who recently returned from 18 years in prison for
attempted murder and armed robbery, is undeterred by the new reality
of his home neighborhood. He says the once rough stretch of Decatur
Avenue is still “his.”
“I don’t know s**t about gentrifyin nothin’…sound like
something we used to do to the coke for real. All I’m saying is you
come through the hood you gotta check in with the real n*ggas. You
eating our food, you buyin shoes out our Foot Locker, you buying our
Starbucks…n*ggas died out here for them Frappucinos! So it’s only
right you pay respect. We don’t even want no money, we could start
taxing but I’m a fair king,” Briggs says with a lifeless chuckle.
64year-old Betheny Buttercrump agrees:
“They’re always such gentleman to me, they always help me with
my groceries …they watch my car and say ’I’m good money’ at
the nail salon. I don’t know what that means but they’re good
Chivalry notwithstanding, 23 complaints have been filed
against Briggs in the past 5 months, 21 of which have been filed by
“I don’t know what to say. I see some white boy with nerdy
glasses and a tight ass turtleneck in August I’m not trippin…but
when we see somebody that look like we look, stuntin on our strip we
Mall owner Henry Rosenberg said he was initially disturbed by the
group’s presence, but has since taken a softer stance.
“I understand these gentleman have nowhere to go. They are
oppressed, and feel like this street is the only thing they have.
They can do as they please, give themselves whatever title they want.
Don of this, King that, as long as I cash the checks and there is no
property damage I could care less.”
When told of Rosenberg’s comments, Briggs said he was “proud
to be the only n*gga in the city with Jews on the team.”
The local police department was decidedly less optimistic. They
declined a full interview, but the area Chief noted they were “aware
of Briggs and his crew, but don’t care because they’ll be back in
prison soon enough. We’ll give them enough rope to lynch