Photo Credit: Blake Aued
More than 200 University of Georgia students gathered at the Miller Learning Center Monday night to talk about a racist video that went viral over the weekend.
Black students who spoke at the "In Solidarity" event, organized by the Student Government Association and UGA chapter of the NAACP, said they were hurt but not surprised by the Snapchat video, which showed a white UGA fraternity member whipping another white student with a belt, telling him to "pick my cotton," and using a racial slur. They also criticized the university administration's response to the video.
"There are students of color who don't feel safe, who don't feel comfortable, and that's a failure on the administration's part," one student said.
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.
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.
Athens-Clarke County police identified the man officers shot and killed off Westlake Drive on Friday as Thomas Wayne Swinford, 34.
Swinford's last known address was in Grovetown, in the Augusta area, police said today, but Chief Cleveland Spruill told Flagpole Friday night that he also had connections to Athens.
According to police, officers responded at about 6:30 p.m. Friday to call about a man with what is believed to be a firearm. After spending approximately 10–15 minutes telling him to put the gun down, Swinford charged at police, and the officers opened fire.
Photo Credit: Blake Aued
Athens-Clarke County police shot and killed a man they "believed to be armed with a weapon" during a confrontation off Westlake Drive at about 6:30 p.m.
According to a news release from ACCP issued at 10 p.m.:
ACCPD officers encountered an adult white male who brandished what is believed to be a firearm in a threatening manner. Officers issued verbal commands for the individual to drop the firearm. The individual disregarded the officers’ command and charged the officers with the firearm in his hand pointed in the officer’s direction. Multiple officers, fearing for their lives and safety, discharged their firearms. After the shooting, officers immediately rendered first aid and the individual was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Mayor Kelly Girtz released a statement this afternoon on the settlement with former Athens-Clarke County police officer Taylor Saulters saying that he and commissioners wanted to put the incident behind them and move forward with new law enforcement and diversity initiatives.
"Like we have done with past circumstances involving members of the community and members of our Police Department, we evaluated this situation based on its own unique facts and circumstances," Girtz said. "We, the Mayor and Commission of Athens-Clarke County, have made this decision in order to avoid prolonging the pain and expense of continued litigation, and further place our energy moving forward into ensuring that safe, dignified lives can be lived throughout our community."
Photo Credit: Savannah Cole/file
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 voted Tuesday night to approve a settlement in a lawsuit filed by former police officer Taylor Saulters, who was fired last year after hitting a fleeing suspect with his cruiser.
The vote was added to the commission's agenda at the last minute because, as ACC Attorney Bill Berryman told commissioners, Saulters agreed to it on Monday. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, nor had documents related to the settlement been posted online as of this writing, and several commissioners told Flagpole that they weren't sure if they were at liberty to discuss it. Commissioner Jerry NeSmith, presiding over the meeting in place of Mayor Kelly Girtz, said Girtz would release a statement in "the next couple of days."
The vote was 5–2, with commissioners Tim Denson and Patrick Davenport voting against the settlement. Commissioner Mariah Parker abstained, Commissioner Andy Herod was absent, and NeSmith did not vote because he was acting as mayor pro tem.
The Clarke County Board of Education voted 6–2 Thursday night for Frances Berry, a well-known volunteer in progressive circles, to fill the District 2 seat recently vacated by Vernon Payne.
The vote followed a plea from BOE member Linda Davis to choose a black person for the position—namely, former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims—since the school district is majority black. Only a black person, she said, can understand what it’s like to live as a black person. “It’s one thing to have theories and another to live like that,” she said.
Board member Greg Davis said he was voting for Berry because she wouldn’t be satisfied with the status quo, which he said was failing the district’s students by not offering them the skills needed to get good jobs. Three young women joined the school board last year, he said, referring to Kara Dyckman, LaKeisha Gantt and Tawana Mattox, and he wanted to add a fourth. Berry’s training as a counselor, and as a teacher of counselors, should serve students well, Greg Davis said.
Zero Mile, the Atlanta-based promotions company that books and operates Athens' Georgia Theatre, as well as the Atlanta venues Variety Playhouse and Terminal West, has announced a new partnership with AEG Presents, the entertainment division of Los Angeles-based events monolith Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG.
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