University of Georgia President Jere Morehead defended UGA’s actions on the discovery and reinterment of slave remains underneath Baldwin Hall in a letter to Flagpole today.
Morehead was responding to a letter delivered by local activists to his office on Wednesday demanding that the university acknowledge and address the legacy of slavery on campus.
Morehead began the letter by stating he was “not surprised by the wildly inaccurate claims” in the open letter signed by local activist groups and public officials.
“As President of this institution, I know the University has done what is right and has treated the remains of the individuals at Baldwin Hall with dignity and respect. I am troubled that many dedicated individuals—who represent a broad diversity of perspectives and backgrounds—have been maligned and personally attacked for doing their jobs in a responsible manner,” Morehead wrote.
Photo Credit: Ashlyn Webb
Representatives from local activist organizations delivered an open letter to UGA President Jere Morehead today demanding that the university acknowledge and address the legacy of slavery on campus.
Members of several organizations that signed on to the letter—including the Economic Justice Coalition, Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, the Athens NAACP, United Campus Workers of Georgia and Athens for Everyone—stood on the steps of the Administration Building and recited the letter this morning. Signers also included Athens-Clarke County commissioners Mariah Parker, Melissa Link and Tim Denson, and Clarke County Board of Education members LaKeisha Gantt and Tawana Mattox.
The letter demands that the university take responsibility for its role in white supremacy, fund a faculty-proposed Center of Slavery to further research the university’s history of slavery and oppression, and provide reparations by granting full-tuition scholarships to descendants of enslaved people who worked on UGA’s campus and for African-American students who graduate from an Athens public high school, as well as paying all employees a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
A bill severely restricting abortions in Georgia passed narrowly with a 92-78 vote on the House floor on Friday. It takes 91 votes to pass a bill.
Now, House Bill 481 heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk to be signed into law.
Kemp is expected to sign the legislation. In his 2018 campaign, he vowed to his supporters to sign “the strictest abortion law in the nation.”
Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson/file
Athens' Confederate monument, and others, will be harder to move if the state legislature passes a bill granting monuments greater protection.
Reps. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) and Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) voted in favor of Senate Bill 77. Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) voted against the bill, which passed 100–71.
SB 77, sponsored Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), increases the punishment against those who damage or destroy a monument. Those found guilty of damaging a monument could be fined up to three times the costs to repair or replace it, according to the bill.
The Georgia House of Representatives could vote soon on what will be one of the strictest—if not the strictest—abortion laws in the country today.
On Friday, the Georgia Senate moved forward House Bill 481. The “Heartbeat Bill” bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. That’s when supporters claim a fetal heartbeat can be detected, although doctors dispute that. The current law bans most abortions after 20 weeks.
Both Athens-area senators, Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) and Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) voted in favor of the bill. Two Athens representatives, Republicans Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower, have stated they will vote to approve the bill as they did the first time around. Democrat Spencer Frye is the only Athens legislator expected to vote against it.
Senate tweaks to the bill mean the House must approve it again to send it on to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature, but time is running out. Before Day 38 of the 40-day session, HB 481’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), said the bill is three votes shy of passage.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity’s UGA chapter has been suspended and four members expelled from the fraternity after a video surfaced showing them using racist language and mocking slavery.
“I want to reach out to you to express how profoundly disappointed and appalled I am by the content of a recent video involving four UGA students that has been circulating on social media. I know this matter has caused great pain and anguish within our University community,” UGA president Jere Morehead said in a statement. “This incident does not reflect the culture of unity and inclusion which we support on our campus.”
Once the video began gaining attention, the University of Georgia, Student Government Association and Tau Kappa Epsilon gave statements via Twitter.
A Student Government Association resolution urging the University of Georgia to build a monument on North Campus to all enslaved people at the University of Georgia and to dedicate the Chapel Bell to two enslaved men who were utilized as bell ringers on campus passed 32-3 Tuesday night.
“Many community members and students do not feel as though the University of Georgia adequately, publicly acknowledged its past entanglement with slavery, nor acknowledged the substantial contributions that enslaved peoples made towards the establishment and success of the University,” the SGA resolution states.
For senators like Jessica Douglas, who introduced the resolution, memorials at Baldwin Halland Oconee Hill Cemetery are not enough.
“There’s this conception that because a memorial was placed at Baldwin Hall that we’ve sort of checked the box and that that’s all we really need to do. I want to continue the conversation and grappling with our legacy of slavery,” Douglas said.
The Athens-Clarke County Commission could create a criminal justice committee later this year after two commissioners briefly held up a federal grant that funds drug investigations.
The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds the Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force, which consists of nine officers, six of whom work for the ACC Police Department. The grant partially funds four of those six officers, according to ACC Manager Blaine Williams.
Commissioner Mariah Parker removed the grant from the commission’s consent agenda—a package of noncontroversial items—at its Feb. 5 meeting. She and Commissioner Melissa Link said they would approve of the grant if the commission were to take action to establish a criminal justice committee. After discussion, the commission unanimously approved the grant and decided to return to the subject of creating the committee in six months, once new Police Chief Cleveland Spruill has time to settle in and take part in creating the committee. Mayor Kelly Girtz said the commission is scheduled to review the criminal justice system at its March work session.
Photo Credit: Office of the Governor
Gov. Nathan Deal, whose second term ends on Monday, will soon be teaching at the University of Georgia.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted today to appoint Deal as a Regents Professor. His appointment will be effective for at least three years beginning March 1.
Deal plans to occasionally lecture undergraduates with interests in political science and law at UGA and other institutions in the University System of Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreported. He's also starting a consulting firm with his longtime chief of staff, Chris Riley.
After a divisive campaign, Gov.-elect Brian Kemp called for unity Tuesday in his first major speech since winning a close and hard-fought election. Taking a different tone than what voters heard on the campaign trail, he appealed to state legislators to “put politics behind us.”
The speech at the University of Georgia’s Biennial Institute, a three-day training session for state legislators, came months after Kemp emerged from a bruising Republican primary in July and just weeks after he repeatedly called Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams a radical extremist.
“It’s time to shed the labels and work together as Georgians. It’s time to stand up for our communities, our families and our Georgia values,” Kemp said. “It’s time to protect the vulnerable. It’s time to do the right thing—even when no one is looking.”
The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections broke state law when it went into executive session in September to discuss opening an early voting site at Cedar Shoals High School, according to the ACC Attorney’s office.
Tension continued in the Board of Elections on Tuesday as they discussed the closed-door meeting. The attorney’s office concluded the board was in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings act. Assistant county attorney John Hawkins provided the results of the review to board members.
On Sept. 4, the BOE decided to go to executive session to discuss “personnel matters” since more poll workers would be needed for an additional early voting location. Under the Open Meetings Act, the board is permitted to go to executive session if it involved personnel matters. However, other topics were discussed, and the personnel exemption is meant to cover discussions about specific employees or candidates for positions, not hiring more personnel in general.
It’s been four months since Bird scooters began hatching around downtown Athens and soaring through the University of Georgia campus in August as part of the company’s nationwide “University Pop-Up Tour.”
After a week, university officials began confiscating Birds on campus, and ACCPD and UGAPD later started ticketing riders who did not obey the law. Now, Bird scooters are causing another problem for University of Georgia officials since the company has refused to pick up the impounded scooters or pay fines.
As of Nov. 19, the University of Georgia had confiscated a total of 1,096 Bird scooters since August and stored them in the Carlton Street parking deck. At that time, Bird owed the university $504,360, according to UGA spokesperson Rebecca Beeler.
The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections faces possible state sanctions after missing the deadline to certify election results because of a chaotic recount Tuesday that raised as many questions as it answered.
The “recanvassing”—prompted by petitions from three voters in eight precincts who were concerned about every vote being counted—started at 11 a.m. and was supposed to end at 2 p.m., but continued well past the 5 p.m. deadline for counties to certify their election results and deliver them to the secretary of state’s office.
Vote totals were uploaded around 6:30 p.m., said Charlotte Sosebee, the director of elections and voter registration. However, the election wasn’t certified until closer to 8 p.m. Documents were turned over to the Georgia State Patrol at 9 a.m. today for delivery to Atlanta.
Not only were all the votes counted on Election Day, the recanvassing revealed that too many were counted. Twenty-five mail-in absentee ballots were counted that should not have been.
About 175 Athens voters who cast provisional ballots have another few hours to resolve whatever issue led to them not being able to cast a regular ballot on Election Day.
Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections staff has reviewed 218 provisional ballots cast by voters whose eligibility was uncertain. Of those, 43 have been counted and 175 are still unresolved, according to board member Jesse Evans.
Ordinarily, voters have until the close of business the Friday after the election to resolve issues with provisional ballots. The BOE voted unanimously on Friday, though, to push the deadline to 4 p.m. today.
“This would allow our community as much time as possible to resolve any issue with their provisional ballot,” Evans said.
A former candidate for an Athens-area congressional seat was one of five voters who filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to force Brian Kemp—the apparent winner in what is still a disputed gubernatorial race—to recuse himself from overseeing Georgia’s election.
Kemp announced his intention to resign as secretary of state at noon today just before a hearing began this morning in Atlanta, rendering the lawsuit moot.
One of the plaintiffs was Barrow County resident Chalis Montgomery, who ran in the 10th Congressional District Democratic primary last spring. Tabitha Johnson-Green of Sandersville won the nomination and lost to Rep. Jody Hice on Tuesday.
“It’s really important when we have suits like this to show a variety of plaintiffs and a multiplicity of concerns,” Montgomery said. “Even though I’m not running for office right now, it’s important to stand up against our democratic norms. We don’t have anything if we don’t have free and fair elections.”
A shootout in the Cedar Creek neighborhood this morning left one person dead and two more injured, according to Athens-Clarke County police.
At about 7 a.m., the suspect arrived at the victims’ residence on Ponderosa Drive and forced one victim, who was leaving for work, into the house. The suspect then held one victim at gunpoint. The suspect and one of the victims exchanged gunfire, according to an ACCPD news release.
When police arrived at 7:28 a.m., the suspect was dead and the two victims were injured with gunshot wounds. The victims were taken to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.
The number of Georgians who've voted early passed the 1.6 million mark on Wednesday.
At this time during the last midterm election in 2014, the early voter count had almost reached 700,000, according to Georgia Votes.
Record early voting is also happening in Clarke County. So far, 17,576 people have cast their ballot in the county. While that's fewer than the number who voted early in 2016—a presidential year when turnout is usually substantially higher—it's a 155 percent increase compared to 2014. And there is still a day and a half to go before early voting ends.
A man with a history of sexual assaults coerced a woman into his car downtown early Wednesday morning, according to law enforcement officials.
The woman has been found safe, and the man is in custody, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent told reporters this afternoon. Authorities are now looking for other women whom the man may have coaxed into his car.
Witnesses told police they saw the woman being coaxed into a black Nissan Sentra at about 12:15 a.m. It left downtown traveling east on Broad Street and was last seen in the area of Boulevard and Chase Street, according to ACCPD.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas quietly visited Athens earlier this week to speak to students and faculty at the University of Georgia School of Law.
On Monday morning, Thomas spoke at a breakfast reception for law faculty members.
On Tuesday, Thomas lectured to students about his life and allowed law school students to ask about the practice of law and his legal career. He also talked to a class titled “Excessive Force and Section 1983.”
All the events Justice Thomas attended were private and closed to the media, Heidi Murphy, the director of communications and public relations for the University of Georgia School of Law, told Flagpole earlier this week.
Amidst a swarm of police and protesters, Donald Trump Jr. came to town on Tuesday. It was kind of a thing.
The conservative power couple of Trump and former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle campaigned for Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp at 5 p.m., then headed across the hall at the Classic Center for a “Campus Clash” event with Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and communication director Candace Owens.
The Classic Center was packed out with GOP supporters—and about 100 protestors who later walked out en masse. Meanwhile, a small group of protestors gathered on East Washington Street in a fenced-off area police set aside.
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