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Stacey Abrams Speaks at Athens Labor Rally

Stacey Abrams speaks at a labor rally in downtown Athens on Sept. 17. Credit: Tim Denson

The second quarter of a UGA football game might not be the best time to hold a political rally in Athens, but about 200 people turned out nonetheless to hear from Democrat Stacey Abrams, who’s running in a governor’s race that’s bound to be much closer than the Bulldogs’ 48–7 win over South Carolina.

Abrams’ 10-minute remarks at a United Campus Workers of Georgia rally on College Square were a condensed version of her usual stump speech. She pledged to expand Medicaid, prevent more hospital closures, protect students from school shootings, restore free technical college, provide need-based college financial aid and invest the state’s $5 billion surplus in education, while criticizing Gov. Brian Kemp for proposing tax cuts for the wealthy and lifting COVID-19 shutdowns too early.

“We don’t get to choose our battles, but we do get to choose our warriors, and I’m here to fight for you,” Abrams said.

Affordable housing is a particularly relevant issue lately in Athens, where tenants in several communities recently bought by a Florida-based investment company are organizing to fight massive rent hikes and avoid being turned out onto the street. “Too many people are being evicted while the governor makes money as a real estate mogul in Georgia,” Abrams said. 

On social media, conservatives tweaked Abrams for the timing of her rally, saying it showed she’s out of touch. But Democrats pointed out that fall weekends when the Dawgs are away are chock-full of other events. Abrams also reportedly stopped by the Athens PRIDE festival while she was in town.  

The UCWGA held the rally to build support for House Bill 1576, which would allow public sector unions in Georgia. Currently, government employees like UGA faculty and staff are not allowed to strike or collectively bargain.

Other speakers at the rally included Broderick Flanigan, chair of the Athens Economic Justice Coalition; former Athens-Clarke County commissioner Mariah Parker, now a labor organizer in Atlanta; and Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement cofounder Mokah Jasmine Johnson, who’s running against state Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) in House District 120.