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Atlantans Protest Exxon that Wouldn't Call 911 for Stabbed Customer

Photographs 1-6 by Jonathan Springston, Senior Staff Writer; Photographs 7-10 by Susan Keith, Staff Writer

(APN) ATLANTA -- About 20 Atlanta activists and neighbors of Matthew Cardinale, The Atlanta Progressive News's News Editor, gathered at the corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Monroe Drive in Midtown this Wednesday, May 30, 2007, at 5pm, to protest the Exxon station that would not call for help after he had been stabbed on May 15, 2007, just one block away.

Protesters held signs and chanted to a chorus of supporting car horns during the peak of rush hour traffic. Passers-by inquired as to what was going on and many potential customers left the Exxon station upon hearing what the station had done.

One huge banner read, "DON'T GET STABBED HERE! EXXON WON'T CALL 911!"

Cheers included, "Shame on Exxon! This is unacceptable!" and "We thought this was a community store! Won't be shopping here no more! Left a man bleeding on the floor! Said the payphone's out the door!"

"I felt that showed a lack of compassion and humanity," Cardinale said, of not receiving help at the Exxon. "This is a community store. This is something that should not have happened and if they want to be here making a profit off of our community, then the very least they could do is call 911 in an emergency."

Cardinale and protesters later walked into the station and delivered a 4 page, hand-written letter containing a statement condemning the Owner of the store and a list of demands including a written apology from Exxon and the firing of the attendant on duty that night.

He told the two attendants on duty Wednesday that he wants to hear a response from the Owner within two days or there will be a lawsuit.

"This gas station cannot continue to have contempt for its customers and cannot continue to endanger the lives of its customers when they need them the most," Cardinale said.  "I could have dropped dead in their store and they wouldn't have even cared."

"I think, one, there should be an acknowledgment this happened and I think the guy should be fired," Randy Aronov, a protester, said of the attendant who did not call 911.

"Certainly an apology would be in order at the very least. It's inhumane, it's immoral," Tony Sinkfield, another protester, said.

APN asked protesters if they could think of possible reasons why a gas station attendant would not call an ambulance for someone in need of such obvious help.

"I can't think of a reason," Aronov said.  "It's absurd. There's absolutely no reason."

"I was shocked," Sinkfield said.  "I can't think of [a reason not to call for help]."

"I thought it was actually illegal not to help in some cases," Bob Rouse, another protester said.  "I would think not helping when it comes to matters of life and death should be against the law."

Rouse said he had not heard of anything like this before but said, "I don't think these things get reported as often as they should."

"I'm sure this happens all the time but this is the first time that I'm personally aware of it," Gloria Tatum, another protester, said.

"When I read this, it made me very reactive," Aronov said. "It was not just the store but I was also very reactive [to the news] Matthew got stabbed."

APN asked some protesters what's wrong in the assailants' lives that they feel the need to stab a stranger for money and what can be done to solve the problem.

"If you look around these corners at certain times of the day, you can just see people roaming," Sinkfield said. "These are people who have been displaced or who have nowhere else to go."

"If you go up two blocks from here, it's like you're walking into a different country," Rouse said. "The pockets of poverty in this city are amazing."

"Once upon a time, some of these people were renters or homeowners in this neighborhood and they've been forced out," Sinkfield said.

"Rent was very affordable just one or two blocks away not too long ago but it's a thing of the past," Sinkfield, who has lived in the area since the late 1970s, said. "There are not enough living wage jobs for folks to be able to have their own apartments or homes."

"Money that goes into the pockets of people who don't need it, needs to go into the pockets of people who do need it," Rouse said.

"They just take a bad situation and make it worse," Tatum said of people who resort to this type of crime and who may be drug addicts.  "They don't have any kind of realistic rehabilitation."

"This society has gotten away from people and moved toward things," Sinkfield said.  "People just don't care about people anymore.  It's sad."

Cardinale said the Atlanta Police Department caught the suspected perpetrators committing a similar crime near North Avenue and Piedmont Avenue just days after the incident.

APD has since told APN that Juvenile Court had let the suspected assailant--who Cardinale had identified to police--go on the previous crime before he could be arrested on the crime against Cardinale. APD, therefore, is again looking for the suspect and he is currently on the loose.

Cardinale was able to pick the perpetrator who stabbed him, who is only 16 years old, out of a line up of 12 photographs. Cardinale said he was unable to recognize the other perpetrator.

"It makes me sad someone who is 16 years old felt that [stabbing me] was the only way he could make a name for himself and I feel sorry for that person," he said. "What that tells me is, we really don't offer a lot of opportunities for some of our young people and they must feel this is the only way they can make a difference."

Cardinale will testify at a trial, the date of which has not yet been set, presuming the suspects are caught again.

Exxon Corporate Office has directed its Petroleum Distributor for Metro Atlanta to discuss with Cardinale the incident to "figure out what happened."

The local Exxon store, like all Atlanta Exxon stores, are franchises owned by private individuals.

According to a reporter at Creative Loafing magazine in Atlanta, the employee, Azad, was fired or resigned after the incident.

The protest was covered by NBC's 11Alive local news and by WSB Channel 2. WSB is owned by Cox Communications, which also owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. Forthcoming reports are expected in Creative Loafing and Southern Voice magazines.

Cardinale has told Exxon Corporate he will contact them on Monday to schedule the requested meeting.

NBC's reporter, Jon Shirek, discovered from the Exxon attendant on duty during the day Wednesday that their phone has not been broken for at least the last three months.

Atlanta Progressive News also discovered the payphone booths outside the store to be, in one case not operational, and in two other cases, missing the actual phones.

The Exxon store clerks have stated now on several occasions they do not know who the Owner or is how to contact him or her. These clerks told Cardinale, protesters, and media on Wednesday that the Owner is out of the country for the next three months.

At the same time, however, Atlanta Progressive News attempted to call the alleged Store Owner, Samad, by phone on Wednesday and he hung up the phone.

Exxon Corporate communications office in Virginia told NBC they were "upset and apologetic" and have undertaken an internal investigation to get to the bottom of the matter quickly.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Syndication policy:

This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.


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