ANTHONY HILL: 2 YEARS LATER

Written by Devyn Springer

Two years ago we lost Anthony Hill.

Anthony Hill, who stood about 5 foot 8 inches with brown skin and a wide smile, was another Black body taken from the Earth by the brunt force of state violence. For those unaware, Anthony was an Air Force veteran diagnosed with PTSD and Bipolar disorder who was not receiving the proper treatment from the state he deserved. He was shot and killed by officer Robert Olsen while having a probable manic episode two years ago on March 9th, and for more details of what happened can be found here.

To mark the two year anniversary of his passing I wanted to get a chance to share and uplift the words of Bridget Anderson, Atlanta activist and girlfriend of Anthony Hill, and let her tell us in her her own words what life looks like two years after such a loss. Focusing both on Anthony and the time that has passed, Bridget discusses where the court case against officer Robert Olsen is at now, as well as some encouraging words on self-care and resistance.

In her own words:

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I know not only are you a busy woman, but this can also be a heavy topic for you.

Thanks so much for giving me the space to share him.

So the readers know; we became best friends over a year ago. After weeks of protesting with you, I finally built the courage to ask you to meet me for coffee and a small, intimate interview.

I remember I was nervous to meet you! But it felt like a conversation with an old friend right away. Thanks for making me feel comfortable when I was so vulnerable.

The last time I interviewed   you, you spoke about the depression that set in after the interviews, protests, marches, and organizing began to slow down. You said that self care is the only way you were able to overcome everything. So, how is your self care going?

My battle with depression is in a pretty good space at the current moment. I’m at a job where I feel valued and respected. I laugh more than I cry. I laugh hard at least once a day and that’s a huge step for me. I would say that March 2016 until now has really been the healing part of my grief. I was going so hard the first year that I couldn’t breathe until we got the first win, the indictment.
Currently, I am self-caring the hell out of myself. I took the day off to take a hot bath, do a facial and cry openly. I will admit that I’ve been heavily slacking on my self care. It’s definitely a routine that you have to make time for. Yoga has also helped me physically and mentally be in tune with myself. I try to do it at least 3 times a week. I talk openly with my partner about how I’m feeling and she helps me get through a lot as well. I’m in good space, but waiting for justice is also exhausting, you know?

Yes, I can imagine[...] I remember you made a tweet that said what happened when Anthony was killed, and it went viral. It instantly got thousands of retweets and when we saw that you were local, we instantly reached out to you.

Yes, I remember having to delete my twitter app shortly after I posted it. Then re-downloading it when I couldn’t sleep and seeing people from Rise Up DM’ing me about scheduling a protest. I couldn’t believe that y’all planned a protest in such a short time frame and had that big of a turn out! I was watching it live in my parent's living room with my best friends. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Reflecting back, two years ago today the Earth lost Anthony and a movement in Atlanta began, with you at the center of it. We never could have imagined the push to decriminalize mental illness could get so much support. What feelings are in your heart two years later?

I wrote my feelings out for two hours this morning and realized that without this tragedy, I would still be 2015 Bridget. As cliche as it is to say “everything happens for a reason,” I am truly at peace knowing that Anthony’s soul was put on this earth for something bigger. I’ve healed little by little everyday, but it especially hurts today. I can still hear Anthony saying my name in my head, but it’s very faint when it use to be so clear.

And looking at the organizing that was created around this tragedy, what do you think you would have done differently looking back two years later?

I have nothing that I would’ve done differently. Through the late night meetings, disagreements, flubs and wins. We accomplished so much and I am so proud of that.

A year ago we also occupied the courthouse for 3 nights and 4 days. We weathered the coldest nights of that winter and freezing rain to occupy the space. Community members from all around the state of Georgia came to bring us coffee, pizza, food, blankets, tents, and everything that we needed. What do you think when looking back on such an incredible moment?

It makes me cry! I can be driving down the road having a perfect day and think back to when we occupied that space and burst out in tears. I never experienced so much love in that moment. I think about the man who would bring us hot cocoa every night in huge pots; I thought about the woman who drove 2 hours in traffic just to bring us a homemade apple pie; I thought about the veteran who never left. We would rotate in and out for shifts, but he held it down all day, every day. It was an incredibly humbling thing to even witness.

Tell me a little about where the case is now. We know officer Olsen was indicted on all six counts for murder. What now?

Olsen’s defense is trying to get the murder indictment thrown out, stating courtroom secrecy. And Dekalb county elected a new District Attorney, Sherry Boston. Yesterday (March 9) she appointed a new prosecution team for the case.
The case is currently on appeal in the Georgia Supreme Court. The case has been docketed and a ruling is pending following attorney briefs. The matter will be scheduled for pretrial proceedings and eventually, trial upon return to the Superior Court of DeKalb County.

Do you think they are intentionally stringing this case along slowly, in hopes the public loses sympathy?

Of course they are. We all know that.


Not to change the subject too much, but I want to end by uplifting Anthony’s legacy here. I believe if Anthony was here, he’d be proud of the amazing organizer, public speaker, and human being you’ve become. What would you say to him if you could speak to him now, two years later?

Wow, that’s such a loaded question. But I think it would be something like: “I miss you so much.” I always get this question and never know what to say. I’d like to think that I would try to catch him up on two years in the fastest way possible, then ask him how heaven is. I think that his life is probably way more interesting than mine now. I would tell him that I found love again and hopefully he’d be okay with that. I would tell him to appear in his mother's dreams more often because she misses him so much.

And is there anything you want to say to the people who are reading this?

Tell your loved ones that you love them as often as you can. Take care of yourself and give love to yourself before giving it to others. Never be ashamed of living with a mental illness. Have a game plan for family members who live with a mental illness and what to do if they’re ever in a crisis. Don’t call the cops. Fuck the police.

Thank you for your time.

Of course, love.

As I wrapped up this interview, I sat and thought of the importance of humanizing the faces around police brutality. Anthony was a singer who was in the process of recording a mixtape. He wrote poetry, and was deeply interested in making people laugh and smile. He was very into numerology and Bridget says he was a very fun person to be around.

Not only is it important to humanize those murdered by forces of the state, it is also important to humanize those at the forefront of battles which seeks to end this state violence. The activist, like Bridget Anderson, must often live within the binaries of deification or utter vilification from racists. In reality, both deification, or rather the notion of constructing an activist as perfect in how we perceive them, and vilification aids in the dehumanization of marginalized individuals.

As journalists it is often not our duty to not input our own story onto these events and individuals, rather create the spaces for the activists and family members to speak for themselves. This is often our duty in the process of humanization for those who’ve been deemed, time after time, as less than. To simply share a story that paints a picture of reality, that reality that an individual is moving on to new love after loss, that the one lost to state violence was an artist and singer, these are the pictures we must continue to paint.