Blog Topic: Breaking News

  • In the Loop: 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.


  • In the Loop: Police Identify Man They Shot and Officers Involved

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    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.


  • In the Loop: Athens Police Shoot and Kill Man Near Beechwood


    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    The crime scene on Westlake Drive.

    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.


  • In the Loop: Girtz Releases Statement on Saulters Settlement

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    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."


  • In the Loop: Student Senators Urge UGA to Honor Slaves



    Photo Credit: Savannah Cole/file

    Protesters gather around UGA Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Michelle Cook as she speaks at the Baldwin Hall memorial dedication in November.

    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.


  • In the Loop: UPDATE: ACC Settles With Officer Who Hit Suspect With Car


    Former ACCPD officer Taylor Saulters.

    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. 


  • In the Loop: Frances Berry Appointed to Clarke County BOE

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    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.


  • Homedrone: Georgia Theatre Operator Zero Mile Partners With AEG


    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.


  • In the Loop: Three Candidates Apply for Clarke County School Board Seat


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    Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims.

    Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims is among three applicants for the District 2 seat on the Clarke County Board of Education vacated by Vernon Payne.

    East Broad Street resident Mary P. Bagby and Mulberry Street resident Frances Berry are the other two applicants for the open seat. Berry, a photographer, is a former president of the Federation of Neighborhoods and managed Commissioner Patrick Davenport’s campaign in 2018.


  • In the Loop: College Avenue Parking Deck Expected to Reopen Wednesday After Fire

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    Photo Credit: ACC Fire Department

    A car caught fire at the College Avenue parking deck this morning, but damage was minor and the deck is expected to reopen on Wednesday.

    Athens-Clarke County firefighters responded to reports of smoke billowing from the deck at about 10 a.m. The smoke came from a car accident—a driver hit a wall on the fourth level, according to Battalion Chief Jeff Reno.

    "It's still under investigation, but we think that's what happened," he said.


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