Best Local Troublemaker

Joe Parko

Staff Pick

Meet JOE PARKO, and you think “ordinary guy.” The retired Georgia State professor is anything but. Behind a gentle smile and shock of white hair is a firebrand. Parko, a Quaker, has been among Atlanta’s most indefatigable critics of George Bush and his Iraq misadventure. In November 2002, before the war began, Parko began an all-American exercise. He tried to confront one of his U.S. senators — unhinged hawk Zell Miller — with questions about the war: Will we face more terrorism if we attack Iraq? How many people will be killed? Parko and four other activists refused to leave the senator’s Colony Square office until Miller agreed to meet with them. Instead of setting up a meeting with his constituents, Miller’s minions called the police. The activists, now dubbed the Atlanta Five, were busted for “criminal trespass.” Two years later, a judge threw the case out of court. Since then, Parko’s exported his fight for peace from Midtown to such far-flung lands as Iraq and Palestine. He uses letters, speeches and demonstrations. He’s a gentle but dogged hell-raiser.

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