Today, as we honor Anthony Hill, our fight for justice reminds us of a mighty legacy which transcends time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man known for his radical actions that disrupted the status quo of segregation and Jim Crow during his time, was once one of our greatest leaders. He was known worldwide as a charismatic leader and for smiling in the face of adversity. What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not known for is his bouts with manic depression. While entrenched in battle against the world’s intolerance and apathy, he suffered from mental illness. Throughout his life, Dr. King showed signs of depression: he attempted self harm in his adolescence and was even hospitalized for exhaustion. Many historians attributed his illness to his highly empathetic nature. They believed his illness was a direct correlation to his drive to be an understanding leader.
Anthony Hill was an Air Force veteran, a man who put his life on the line for his country only to be killed by an enforcer of the law at home. Anthony was known for his kind heart. If not for his untimely murder, he may have been a leader for future generations. If a mental health unit with paramedics, nurses, or even doctors had been sent to help Anthony (instead of an officer with a gun) he would still be alive today.
We cannot change the past, but we must realize that mental illness should not be the reason a person is condemned to death or prison. We must provide access to proper healthcare professionals and facilities, instead of sending police officers with guns in response to someone struggling with mental illness. Dekalb County and the entire state of Georgia must have adequate mental health resources to assist the leaders of tomorrow. Mental illness is not a crime, yet as of 2014 there were 356,000 thousand people with mental illnesses in jails and prisons... but only 35,000 in state hospitals.
In an effort to create a safe environment for people affected by mental illness we, the loved ones of Anthony Hill and fellow supporters, call for legislators to create Anthony’s Law, a bill that would create a number of mental health response units in relation to the population size in Dekalb County. Dr. King once said, “We must develop, from strength, a situation in which the government finds it wise and prudent to collaborate with us.” It was his belief that if we act passively we will not be heard. Today we will be heard. We occupy this space to ensure that Anthony receives the justice he deserves.