College Student Activist Arrested at HOPE Debate in Georgia House
With additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale.
(APN) ATLANTA — Andrew Epstein, 23, a graduate student in history at the University of Georgia, was arrested today, Tuesday, March 08, 2011, at the Georgia State Capitol during the State Senate floor debate of HB 326, the Republican bill to amend the HOPE Scholarship.
About ten minutes into the Senate debate on HB 326, two students quietly dropped a banner over the 4th floor Senate balcony.
Senators on the Senate floor motioned for the police to move to that area. The Capitol police removed the banner which read, “Defend Education,” and no one was removed from the balcony at that point.
Everything went back to normal and five minutes later a second banner was dropped over another part of the balcony which read, “HOPE is our only hope.” About six students were removed from the balcony area this time. On the way out the students shouted, “Save HOPE Scholarship.”
A young female student wrote “HELP US” on her arms and stood up, the police ask her to sit down and she complied.
Another group of students left without unveiling their banner.
Several minutes later, numerous students still sitting in the balcony started chanting, “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!”
Police rushed in, yet again, to remove all the students who were chanting.
Once in the 4th floor hallway they were still chanting, “Kill the bill!”
Atlanta Progressive News noticed several police scuffling with one young man, Mr. Epstein.
Three police threw him to the floor as he said, “I’m not resisting, I’m not resisting.”
APN obtained a photograph of this scene with a cell phone camera. A capitol police officer told this reporter, “You can’t take pictures, go back over there [Senate balcony] or I will put you in jail with them.”
He also told another young man not to take pictures.
This reporter at first complied, but returned to the balcony after deciding that APN had done nothing wrong. By that time, TV cameras were filming everything in the hall.
The students were escorted out of the Capitol with a police escort while still chanting, “Kill the bill!”
Once on the street, several students tried to leave the area but police called them back. They were given a warning for “criminal trespass” but not taken to jail.
However, the young man the police threw to the floor in the 4th floor hallway, Mr. Epstein, was taken to the Fulton County Jail.
It is unclear why Epstein was chosen out of about twenty students who were in the hallway at the time, to arrest.
Sean Phillips, a Georgia State University student, said he told the police officer who told him he could not take pictures, “I am legally allowed to take pictures of a police action. Cop Watch won a… case and you cannot stop me from filming.”
Many of the students who protested today were part of Georgia Students for Public Higher Education. According to UGA’s website, Epstein’s history concentrations are in Native American History, Colonialism, and Race and Citizenship.
Tim Franzen of the American Friends Service Committee Atlanta office, told APN at around 930pm that friends of Epstein were waiting to bail him out of jail and that they had put together 1,000 dollars to bail him out.
Franzen recalled the events from earlier. “He [Epstein] was emotional, he was shaking a little bit. The cops were really overzealous. I’ve never seen anything like this, multiple acts of civil disobedience carried out in one day.”
“He was shocked, all of a sudden the cops had their hands all over him, he was talking. He was shouting Tax the rich. I don’t know why they singled him out to grab him. They overzealously grabbed him really hard,” Franzen said.
“He panicked and said get your hands off me, it sort of shook the room, and then the cops immediately took him to the ground,” Franzen said.
“He was apologetic. He said I don’t want to go jail. It wasn’t his intention to get arrested,” Franzen said.
(END / 2011)