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Sarah Fick of the People's Justice League tables at The Union Bar & Grill during the Drag and Dance Show on Saturday. The proceeds from the show the went to the PJL.

How the Athens-based People’s Justice League is working to combat harassment culture

The People’s Justice League, or PJL, is working to combat harassment in Athens through incident reporting and bystander training. 

After seeing a spike in hate crimes around the country, the non-profit organization created an app called the PJL Incident Reporter and re-launched the Active Bystander Coalition this year. Both efforts aim to attack the culture of harassment in Athens.

“We’re hoping that we can start to create a culture in the uptown Athens area that sends a consistent message that these types of behaviors are not going to be tolerated anymore, so that people who do them get the idea that they’re not going to get away with them, and they don’t continue to escalate to more, different types of violence,” Sarah Fick, founder of the Athens-based PJL, said. 

The app allows community members to report harassment in the area so people are aware of potentially unsafe locations. Fick launched the app in January as an extension to the resources available on the PJL website, which includes an incident reporter. 

The interactive map pins locations of different incidents, varying from accounts of racial profiling by police to verbal and sexual harassment. 

“To have the app on their phone or just view our website, (people) can go and look at those incidents and be prepared for places that seem less safe or also be prepared as active bystanders,” Fick said. “And know what’s going on in our community and be ready to step up and do something if they should see something like that personally.”

The stories are self-reported by bystanders or people who have experienced harassment, so the reporters categorize the story themselves. After, Fick reviews the report, uploads it to the app and shares the information on social media. 

“Most of our stories are sexual harassment just because we started out with a focus on that,” Fick said. “We do have a few stories here and there about different types of harassment.”

Police, class, racial, sexuality, gender and disability harassment are categories identifiable by colors on the incident report map. There are about 100 reports on the app, Merrill Tebay, a PJL spokeswoman said. 

Lexi Fogle, an undecided sophomore, sees the app as a helpful resource for people who have experienced harassment. 

“If I was ever in an incident like that, it’d be good to have something to go to,” she said. 

PJL is also working to stop harassment culture through collaboration with bars Uptown. 

“We just kind of started out of our own experiences and our own frustration with these issues, and then we got reinvigorated again during the (President Donald) Trump campaign because of the spike in hate incidents that we saw, largely reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Fick said. “That’s when we had this invigoration of doing the bystander trainings again.”

Through the Active Bystander Coalition, PJL trains bartenders and other service providers on how to deal with situations that could turn into or be considered harassment. 

“We train them to notice early warning signs and step in as active bystanders and throw people out if that’s what’s needed, and also how to respond respectfully to someone who’s disclosing that they’re a survivor of violence to them,” Fick said. 

Once an establishment completes training, PJL gives the bar or restaurant a sticker to mark it as a participating business. PJL has done such efforts sporadically since 2013, when the organization was founded. 

“It should be something that every single bar and even other businesses really look into and try to participate in,” Sean White, co-founder and director of Little Fish Brewing Co., said.

Participating businesses include The Union Bar and Grill, Little Fish Brewing Co., Donkey Coffee, West End Cider House, Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, O’Betty’s Red Hot, The C.I. and The Crystal. 


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