It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and pageantry of the game and its surrounding festivities tied to Super Bowl LIII. But unfortunately, with major events comes the threat of violence. And Atlanta has had its share of both.
The year was 1996 and the city of Atlanta was at the very beginning of an economic and construction boom the likes of which the city had never seen before. The city’s rapid growth was one of the reasons why Atlanta was selected as the home for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
With gleaming hotels, relocated corporations and newly paved highways, a city was transformed. But none of that could not have happened without Black people.
The age-old stereotypes that said Black people were unable to self-govern or uplift a city, even when provided the proper resources, was proven false by Black ATL.
But hatred by its very nature is attracted to progress, creating a morbid yin and yang relationship. It’s one we horrifically witnessed 23 years ago.
On July 27 at Centennial Olympic Park, both Olympic tourists and city residents were enjoying the festivities when a pipe bomb exploded, killing 1 person almost instantly and a second victim who later died of a heart attack. 111 others were injured by shrapnel.
It was the first of four bombings committed by Eric Rudolph, who detonated three more bombs the following year. Security guard Richard Jewell, who found the bomb before it detonated and evacuated most of the spectators out of the park, was blamed for the bombings after the Federal Bureau of Investigations tabbed him as a suspect and the local news media caught wind of it.
From various news sources on the night of the explosion.
After an aggressive investigation, Jewell was exonerated months later.
Rudolph would go on to bomb an abortion clinic and a lesbian nightclub in 1997. That’s when the FBI and ATF noticed the similarities between those devices and the one used at the Olympics and concluded the bombs were made by the same individual.
Law enforcement began to close in on Rudolph after another abortion clinic bombing, this time in Birmingham, Alabama. An off duty police officer was killed and a nurse was seriously injured, yet she was able to provide the FBI with clues critical to the capture of terrorist bomber, including a partial license plate number.
He was named to the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives list on May 5, 1998. Rudolph evaded capture by living in the southern Appalachian Mountains for five years before he was arrested in Murphy, North Carolina in 2003.
On April 8, 2005, the government announced Rudolph would plead guilty to all four bombings, including the Centennial Olympic Park attack. He was tried and convicted of four bombings in 2005 and is currently serving life without parole at Supermax in Colorado.
On July 27, 1996, terror struck the Atlanta Olympics as a pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park, directly killing one person and injuring 111. (Anti-government extremist Eric Rudolph later pleaded guilty to the bombing, exonerating security guard Richard Jewell, who had been wrongly suspected.)
Initially, investigators could only guess at what Rudolph’s motivations were. However, it was later revealed that he was Christian right wing extremist affiliated with Army of God (AOG), a Christian terrorist organization that had been committing bombings in the United States since 1982.
The same people that would take up arms to fight against abortion and gay rights, also hate black folks.
There was no coincidence that the first 3 bombing occurred in a majority Black city or that the fourth bomb exploded in Birmingham, another city with a large Black population.
Currently, America is in a state social tumult that seems like it came out of nowhere, but we know better than that. Right wing radicals, Christian terrorism, bombings meant to frighten the innocent, the Army of God and like minded groups have been a clear and present danger to American society for decades.
Yet, it’s difficult for some of our countrymen to call a terrorist a terrorist.
The facts have always spoken themselves, but many Americans have refused to listen.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, all terrorist attacks attempted in America last year were committed by white radicals like Eric Rudolph. Often, social media reactions inform us of just how out of touch many of us are. Terrorism doesn’t garner images of radical Christian men but or Black and brown “others” who are “jealous” of American democracy.
The very same mindset that caused death and destruction in Atlanta 23 years ago caused the deaths of 50 people in 2018.
Only one was considered Islamic terrorism, a case in which a former white supremacist switched to Islamic beliefs before committing his act.
Recently, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement saying white supremacists are responsible for the overwhelming majority of such acts.
As America celebrates and revels in Atlanta, basking in the light of Super Bowl LIII glory, a significant portion of Americans will look on in disdain as people of all types descend on Atlanta to party together.
A smaller, sinister portion of that population would go to any length to bring pain and death to those who would put aside societal borders in the name of having a good time.