In the Loop

  • UGA Frat Suspended Over Racist Video


    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.


  • Georgia Senate Passes Strict Anti-Abortion Bill


    A still from "The Handmaid's Tale." Protesters at the capitol today dressed as characters from the Hulu show, based on a Margaret Atwood novel about a dystopian society where men force women to conceive and bear children.

    The Georgia Senate passed one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills today.

    The largely party-line vote was 34–18, with both of the Athens area's senators, Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) and Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) voting in favor of it.

    The bill—dubbed the "Heartbeat Bill" by supporters—bans almost all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The bill criminalizes physicians, according to the Georgia Medical Association , and some critics say it could make women who use a morning-after pill legally culpable as well.

    Kemp is almost certain to sign the bill—he supported it during his campaign—setting up a potential legal battle. The American Civil Liberties Union has already said it will sue if Kemp signs the bill into law.


  • Voting Machine Bill Passes on Party-Line Vote

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    Oconee County’s three legislators in the Georgia General Assembly last week voted in favor of House Bill 316, which selects new voting machines and responds to allegations that voters last year were denied access, absentee ballots were not counted and vote tallies were incomplete.

    The vote on the House bill was partisan, and Sen. Bill Cowsert from the 46th District, Rep. Houston Gaines from House District 117, and Rep. Marcus Wiedower from House District 119, all Republicans, sided with the Republican majority.


  • 'Run It Up' Podcast: Athens Hip Hop Awards, SPLOST Part Deux


    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones

    Mokah Johnson (on mic) and Knowa Johnson (right) at the 2016 Athens Hip Hop Awards.

    In "Run It Up," Flagpole's new podcast, we take a deeper look at some of the stories from the current issue. In this week's episode, Athens Hip Hop Awards founders Mokah and Knowa Johnson join Gabe Vodicka to discuss this year's expanded event and how hip-hop informs their work as community activists. Plus, Blake Aued chats with SPLOST citizens advisory committee chairwoman Shannon Wilder.


  • 'Run It Up' Podcast: Podcasting in Athens, Taylor Saulters


    Taylor Saulters

    In "Run It Up," Flagpole's new podcast, we take a deeper look at some of the stories from the current issue. In this week's Very Meta Episode, writer, podcaster and The Rook and Pawn co-owner Tim Kelly joins Gabe Vodicka to talk about the recent boom in Athens podcasting. Plus, Blake Aued breaks down Athens-Clarke County's controversial settlement with former ACCPD officer Taylor Saulters.


  • Athens Republicans Vote for Abortion Bill, Against Hate Crimes Bill

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    Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville).

    Oconee County’s two representatives in the Georgia General Assembly cast their votes late Thursday night with the House majority in favor of a bill that prohibits most abortions after a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the womb and with the minority against a hate crimes bill.

    House Bill 481, officially called the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, passed narrowly at 10:45 p.m. on Thursday with 93 representatives, almost all Republicans, voting in favor, and 73 voting against.

    The bill required 91 votes for passages in the 180-seat House of Representatives, where Oconee County’s Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower are joined by 105 other Republicans.

    House Bill 426, which would amend existing Georgia Code to provide criteria for imposition of punishment for defendants who select their victims based upon certain biases or prejudices, also passed narrowly with 96 voting in favor and 64 voting against.


  • Voucher, Bail, Home Design Bills Don't Make It Past Legislature's Crossover Day


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    Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens).

    The Senate voted down a bill last week creating a voucher program for private-school students when several Republicans either sat it out or crossed party lines, and a rumored revote never came to pass. SB 173 is most likely dead for the session, along with the similar House Bill 301.

    Crossover Day—the last day for a bill to pass either the House or the Senate and be eligible to pass in the other—came and went Thursday without a vote on HB 301 or HB 340, which would have restricted local governments’ ability to reform the cash bail system. SB 164, another bill aimed at bail reform sponsored by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) died as well.

    HB 302, prohibiting local governments from regulating the design of houses, appeared to be on the fast track after passing out of committee, but also did not come up for a vote. However, all of these bills could be resurrected by attaching their language to bills on similar topics that did make it through Crossover Day. And they will get another chance next year.


  • Weapon Man Pointed at Police Before Being Shot Was Air Pistol


    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    Chief Cleveland Spruill briefs reporters on Sunday. Behind him is a photo of the airsoft gun Thomas Swinford brandished at police.

    The weapon a man pointed at police officers before they shot and killed him Friday was an airsoft gun, authorities said Sunday.

    While the investigation is ongoing, Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill released more details on Sunday.

    Friday evening police, initially responded to a call that Thomas Wayne Swinford, 34, of Grovetown, who was in Athens visiting relatives, was "behaving erratically" and was suspected of stealing a vehicle. After speaking to him initially and noticing that he had what appeared to be a gun, officers realized he had "an extensive criminal record," Spruill said. Possessing a gun is illegal for a convicted felon, so they returned to the home to speak to him again.


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