Capitol Police Aim to Block Media Coverage of 24 Arrests on Moral Monday (UPDATE 1)

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(APN) ATLANTA — On Monday, February 10, 2014, twenty-four activists were arrested during the third “Moral Monday” protest at the Georgia State Capitol.  Numerous news organizations attempted to cover the arrests, but were blocked by what, by all accounts, appears to have been an intentional collaboration between the Capitol Police and the Georgia State Patrol (GSP).

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It is the job of Capitol Police and the GSP to enforce the laws in the promotion of public safety.  However, taxpayer dollars are apparently being used to fund these organizations in the furtherance of protecting the public image of the State Legislature, as if these officers were so many public relations agents.

 

Twenty-four people walked into State Sen. Jesse Stone’s (R-Waynesboro) office, in the Coverdell Building, to discuss their desire to repeal Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law.  

 

Sen. Stone offered to meet with two of the protesters with no cameras present.  The group, however, requested he meet with everyone.

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“We will not leave until we meet with the Senator and he reverses his position on SB 280,” Tim Franzen, with American Friends Service Committee Southeastern Regional Office, said.

 

Stoner stayed in his office, while his office called the Capitol Police.  

 

One large and tall police officer [photographed herein] told the group to “Shut Up!”  

 

The Moral Monday group continued to sing, “This Little Light of Mine.”   

 

“We are here as moral witnesses. You are not going to intimidate us, you are not going to holler at us, you are not going to treat us like children,” Rev. Timothy McDonald of the First Iconium Baptist Church told the officer.

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As the arrests started, the Capitol Police along with GSP forced, under threat of arrest, most of the media to move far down the hall, even though press credentials were in obvious view.  

 

Three journalists were allowed to stay, but the officers forced all other journalists to move to where it was difficult to see or photograph the arrests happening.  No reason was given for the threatening instructions.

 

This reporter and others ran outside to catch the arrestees being put in the police transport vans.   

 

This reporter then overheard a Capitol Police officer on Capitol Square say, “Take the vans to the side street between Capitol and Trinity while the media is not around.”

 

This was an area of the Coverdell complex with a large iron fence that the police kept locked so the media could not get close.  The police vans backed into an area where no one could see the arrestees being loading into the vans.  

 

It was clear the Capitol Police made a special effort to limit video and pictures of clergy and other prominent citizens being handcuffed and loaded into police vans.

 

The activists were taken to the Rice Street Jail in Fulton County, and later were released at around 4pm yesterday, Tuesday, February 11.

 

The arrestees were Shawn Adelman, Ron Allen, Greg Ames, Joe Beasley, Mary Britting, Marcus Coleman, Lorraine Fontana, Tim Franzen, Britney Grey, Daniel Hanley, Tabatha Holley, Keiota Jones, Darien Jones, Ladie Mansfield, Peggy Marx, Rev. McDonald, Jean Miller, Ronnie Mosely, Misty Novitch, Adam Quick, Reynaldo Roberts, Jackie Rodriguez, Roger Sikes, and Heshimu JD Sparks.

 

Sen. Stone is the Chairman of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee that recently held a hearing on State Sen. Vincent Fort’s (D-Atlanta) bill, SB 280, to repeal Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law.  

 

The bill is not expected to pass under the Republican-led Legislature.  That is one reason people are turning to non-violent civil disobedience to get their message out that Stand Your Ground is a deeply flawed piece of legislation.  Others call it a licence to kill because the person has no responsibility to retreat, even if they are reasonably able to do so, in the face of perceived danger.  

 

“It’s a law that has been used to actually shoot first and ask questions later.  Leaving only one witness alive and the other person can never tell their story,” Allen told Atlanta Progressive News.

 

“There is another bill, HB 875, that allows guns to be on college campuses, schools, and bars.  I’m a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church and Martin Luther King’s mother was actually shot in church.  Someone brought a gun in church and shot and killed her.  These gun laws don’t make us safer, it puts us in danger,” Allen said.

 

An unintended, or perhaps intended, consequence of Stand Your Ground is that if one has a gun permit and a great deal of anger, hate, or racial bias, they can potentially set out to go looking for trouble.  Such a person could act upon their inflamed emotions in a way that leaves someone dead, but they may not be convicted of a crime.  

 

Many believe Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law, combined with HB 875, is a deadly combination.

 

“We are here today because there has been overwhelming support, especially from the Millennials, to repeal Stand Your Ground.  We came out after the death of Trayvon Martin and after the announcement of the verdict.  We are here to ask Sen. Stone to continue the hearing for the repeal of Stand Your Ground.  It has been ignored and it’s not getting a fair hearing.  We want Stand Your Ground repealed,” Mosley, founder of the Millennials Movement, told APN.  

 

“In the next ten, fifteen, or twenty years there is a great possibility that the Stand Your Ground law will have a major impact on my Black children.  I look at the state that we are in and I find it absurd that people are able to murder people because of the way they look.  I think about body politics and how powerful such a bill is.  I come to stand for the repeal of Stand Your Ground,” Tabatha Holley, a nineteen year-old Spelman College student, explained to APN.  

 

“Too many young Black males have been murdered under this law.  Sen. Stone was part of the legislation that put it in motion.  We want to let him know our wishes and desires that we think it is in the best interest of all Georgians to repeal Georgia’s Stand Your Ground Law, ” Rev. McDonald told APN.

 

“HB 875 will allow guns in bars and churches, is the most asinine thing I have ever heard of.  It’s so ironic to me to come into this building where no guns are allowed.  Yet, they want to allow guns in my sanctuary.   For them to not see the hypocrisy in that is mind-boggling.  We don’t need, we did not ask for, we did not request that there be any guns allowed in our place of worship.  We hope that these elected officials would use common sense and not allow such a bill to go forward,” McDonald said.

 

“I have decided to take a stand that could cost us our liberties today.  We believe that such convictions are necessary to save lives and move away from this Wild West mentality that everybody has to have a gun.  I’m 77 and I would prefer doing something else; the cells are not comfortable but nonetheless, I think it’s worth it,” Beasley, Southern Regional Director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, told APN.

 

(END/2014)

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that 23 activists were arrested; it was in fact 24, according to Franzen. Marcus Coleman was also arrested.

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