Felipe Fernandez-Armesto: Atlanta concerned its reputation has been harmed abroad by jaywalking incident

Historians in the News

Some English newspapers are taking aim at Atlanta because a visiting history professor, who previously taught at Oxford, was arrested for jaywalking.

In London, the Evening Standard newspaper plastered news of the arrest of Felipe Fernandez-Armesto — accompanied by a photo of the handcuffed professor surrounded by several police officers — on its front page. The Mirror chided Atlanta police for their recent success in jailing "Public Enemy No. 1."

"The story of his arrest is, alas, likely to confirm an impression that Brits have of rough policing in the United States," said A.C. Grayling, a philosophy professor at the University of London. "It reminds people of the videos from California of a black suspect being beaten by police."

"Atlanta's reputation as a conference center might take a bruising," said Kathleen Burk, a specialist in Anglo-American relations at University College London.

An Atlanta police spokesman said the London media coverage has been one-sided. The department offered the police report of the incident to British reporters but they didn't print information from it, said Atlanta police spokesman Officer Joe Cobb.

"We don't feel that the officer's side of the story has ever been presented outside of Atlanta," Cobb said. "I'm not saying that the officer acted appropriately, but there are two sides to this story, and only one side is being told."

Mayor Shirley Franklin said she's concerned about the effect the overseas coverage could have on Atlanta's reputation as a "friendly" city with a rich civil rights history.

"Any incident that calls that into question is of concern to me, but I'm not in a position to address that" until the police investigation into the incident is complete, she said.

Fernandez-Armesto, a British historian now teaching at Tufts University near Boston, was attending a conference of the American Historians Association on Jan. 4 when he crossed Courtland Street in the middle of the block....
Read entire article at Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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