Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement say they want to enter the political realm. The announcement signals a possible shift away from street protests that gridlocked parts of Atlanta a week ago.
In the eyes of state representative Erica Thomas, the protests got attention but accomplished only so much.
"I am here to say yes black lives do matter. But there’s another hashtag that’s circulating that matters. And that’s voting matters. Can we hashtag voting matters? Because that’s where real change happens," she said.
Thomas also urged protesters to reduce their anger against the hundreds of police officers working the streets and the protests on a daily basis: "all law enforcement isn’t bad".
Thomas was flanked by leaders of two factions of the black lives matter movement – one of whom said he expects the movement to redirect its energy into voting and lobbying at the state capitol.
"I’m not saying protesting isn’t an option. However, that is going to be one of our last options if we can’t get what we need to get done," the President of the Greater Atlanta Black Lives Matter, Sir Maejor.
"I see it as a challenge in a good way. I’m trying to figure out what’s the hashtag that will get people to the capitol? What will galvanize the youth? So at this point I don’t think it’s voting or the streets. I think it’s voting and the streets," Tiffany Smith said.
Smith, a leader of Black Lives Matter of Atlanta, said the organization is supporting both those who are in the streets and in the meetings at the state capitol.
"There is no divisiveness because all of us are doing valuable work," she said. "The people are here and present and working early in the morning and late at night."
Smith continued by saying there is a mandate in place for Black Lives Matter of Atlanta.
"What I care about is the folks in Zone 3, who will go through a different experience if Operation Whiplash continues as it does," Smith said. "If (Whiplash) continues as is and communities are policed as they are...we are saying there is a mandate."
"Operation Whiplash," also known as the Gun Violence Reduction Task Force, is the task force announced by Mayor Kasim Reed last month. The task force is made up of 45 police officers and will "dramatically increase resources to respond and investigate gun-related violent crime in our city."
Smith said the mandate she was referring to was a "call to all black leadership around the world" and asked people to go to visit the organization's website.
When asked if leaders of the movement thought protesters would change their focus and become as engaged in legislation as they were in protesting, Maejor said, "I can't control that. I know that we can be the example right?"