Skip to contents

‘We Shall Not Be Moved!’ Peoplestown Residents Celebrate After Eviction Hearing Postponed

Tanya Washington Hicks and her supporters celebrated the news Monday morning outside Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta.

Peoplestown resident Tanya Washington Hicks (bottom row, right) and her supporters celebrate outside Fulton County Superior Court in downtown Atlanta on June 13 after her eviction hearing was postponed. (Chauncey Alcorn/Capital B)

An eviction hearing for Peoplestown resident Tanya Washington Hicks was postponed indefinitely, a momentary win for neighborhood locals in a decade-long eminent domain battle with the city.

Washington Hicks, a law professor and married mother of two, has spent the last six years battling one of three total eminent domain lawsuits filed against her and two other families by the city of Atlanta. The families live on a historically Black residential block in the Peoplestown neighborhood, located in southeast Atlanta.

On June 7, she received notice that an attorney for the city filed a recent motion asking a judge to evict her family. That court request was made despite Mayor Andre Dickens’ prior campaign commitment to let the remaining Peoplestown neighbors keep their homes if they wanted.

Washington Hicks’ lawyer is Don Evans, who also represents two other Peoplestown families in their eminent domain negotiations with the city. She said Evans informed her ahead of her scheduled court appearance on June 13 that an attorney working for the city requested and was granted a postponement for her eviction hearing.

The mayor’s office indicated via email that it was Evans who requested the postponement, which “the City did not object to.” However, multiple emails and screenshots provided to Capital B Atlanta by Washington Hicks suggest otherwise.

An email sent from an attorney representing the city said, “I have just received confirmation that the parties have agreed to hold an in-person settlement meeting on or before next Friday, June 24. … In light of this development, we respectfully request that the Court continue today’s hearing and reschedule it for the Court’s next available hearing date after June 24.”

A follow-up email from a Superior Court staff attorney to Evans’ law firm said the presiding judge, “is granting this motion to continue this case order for the parties to hold an in-person settlement meeting.”

Evans hasn’t responded to multiple calls requesting comment. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office declined to comment further, citing pending litigation.

“I think it’s a victory,” Washington Hicks told Capital B Atlanta outside a Fulton County Superior Court courtroom. “There’s a reason they want to continue it, so we’ll see what that reason is.”

News of the delayed hearing came less than 12 hours after Washington Hicks said she received a phone call from Dickens, who she said asked to schedule a meeting with her and her family on or before June 24.

The mayor’s office hasn’t confirmed plans to schedule a meeting.

“He was very respectful,” Washington Hicks said of the mayor. “He didn’t apologize, but he did extend the invitation, so at least that’s maintaining open dialogue, which I appreciate.”

Fellow Peoplestown resident Bertha Darden and her husband, Robert Darden, also traveled to the courthouse to support Washington Hicks. The smiling group and their supporters sang, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and other church songs outside the courthouse in celebration of the delayed hearing and anticipated meeting with the mayor.

“​​I’m thinking the city is about ready to do the right thing because the truth is out,” Bertha Darden said. “It’s a good thing in one sense, but then this makes 10 years of a continuance of the wrong thing. So it’s time to settle with the right being right and the wrong being wrong.”

Since 2012, the city has been purchasing houses in Peoplestown to create space for a park containing a retention pond designed to prevent flooding.

Four years later, eminent domain lawsuits were filed against Washington Hicks, the Dardens, and their neighbor Dwayne Adgar. The group’s attorney has presented engineering evidence in court that he argues proves city officials don’t need to acquire his clients’ homes to address their flooding concerns.

In April, Bertha Darden and Adgar said they received settlement offers from the city to acquire their homes. Earlier this month, the Atlanta City Council approved a $925,000 offer that Adgar recently accepted for his house.

Bertha Darden said she and her husband have rejected their offer because they want to keep their homes. Speaking outside the courthouse, Bertha Darden expressed anger about the city moving to evict Washington Hicks.

“Why are you evicting us when you told us we can stay?” she asked.

After her phone call with the mayor, however, Washington Hicks expressed optimism that the matter will be resolved in her favor.

“I have been clear about what I want out of this, and hopefully that will be respected in the meeting,” she said.