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ACC commission approves post-UGA murder public safety spending with competing protests raging outside

By Tia Lynn Ivey

Athens-Clarke County has committed more than a half-million dollars to fund expansive safety initiatives in the wake of the recent murder of a student on the UGA campus.

At their meeting Tuesday evening at city hall, ACC commissioners unanimously passed a budget amendment to spend $525,000 to boost security and crime-prevention programs.

The funds will go toward improving the Athens-Clarke County Police Department’s Real‐Time Crime Center, expanding the Public Safety Camera System and the purchases of Mobile Heavy Duty Surveillance Trailers and All‐Terrain Vehicles for patrol operations.

“We will move forward immediately with these expenditures,” Mayor Kelly Girtz said.

The commission took the vote while hundreds of people gathered outside for two competing protests, armed with signs, flags, flowers, and megaphones.

Protesters trickled inside City Hall for the Commission meeting to issue public comments, which represented a wide variety of perspectives and opinions in light of Riley’s murder. One protester was escorted out by police after bursting through the doors and shouting at Girtz to resign immediately and accusing him of corruption.

After disrupting the commission meeting a protester with Make Athens Safe Again is scheduled escorted out of City Hall

Laurie Camp, one of the leaders of SafeD Athens, chided the mayor and commission for the resolution.

“Why did you use hateful words to renounce hate in your resolution? Why did you call half of your citizens white nationalists and xenophobes?” asked Camp.  “I am not hateful because I want everyone in this town to follow the same laws I am required to follow…"

SafeD Athens members also presented a proposed ordinance calling for $5 million to fund a sweeping range of services designed to prevent crime in Athens.

Other commenters expressed concerns that undocumented immigrants are being scapegoated in the aftermath of Riley's murder.

“We all want Athens to be safe…but blaming migrants and forcing them to live in the shadows will not make Athens safer,” said Tim Denson, a former commission member who currently serves on the school board. “Xenophobia does not make us more safe. Hate does not make us more safe. Misogyny does not make us more safe, but unity, us working together across our differences and coming together, will make us more safe.”

Commissioners expressed condolences to the friends and family of Laken Riley, while reacting to the barrage of public comments.

Some comments were critical of a resolution that was adopted by the commission in 2019, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in El Paso in which Latino immigrants were purposely targeted and 23 people were killed. The resolution affirmed Athens as a welcoming community regardless of anyone's immigration status.

“I also want to clarify that a resolution does not carry the weight of legislation,” said District 7 Commissioner John Culpepper said. “Regarding the resolution from 2019, the county attorney explicitly stated It does not establish a sanctuary policy. Despite this clarification, there is a prevailing perception that Athens is a sanctuary city, and perceptions often shape reality. I will work hard to change that perception by collaborating with local, state and federal officials. We must focus on the safety and wellbeing of all Athens residents while adhering to both state and federal law.”

Commissioner Melissa Link, representing District 2,  expressed frustration over the politicization of Laken Riley’s murder being used to target immigrants.  “I am as disgusted by the crime as I am by the hysterical glee with which so many have seized upon this tragedy to promote division, bigotry, and hate.”

District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton apologized for some of the language in the 2019 Resolution and promised to listen to each side’s concerns moving forward.

“There has been so much truth that has been spoken to power from both sides of the aisle on this,” said Thornton. “I don’t think categorizing anybody as a white supremacist is right…I think we could have done better in our language and I apologize…my intent at the time was to help a group of folks that were struggling.”

District 1 Commissioner Patrick Davenport encouraged the public to work together with local officials to find the best policies to keep Athens safe.

“Athens has always been a welcoming city, long before Kelly Girtz became our mayor,” he said. “Now is a time for unity. Now is a time for peace. If you have any solutions that could improve our community, bring it to us. We do listen.”

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14 comentários

Scott Howard
Scott Howard
06 de mar.

Melissa Link speech was a vile disgusting rant of hate and division, I filed a formal complaint for her to be reprimanded

Respondendo a

lol. One man’s rant is another’s truth.

One man’s knee jerk, visceral ad hom righteous diatribe is.. well just that,


What are the consequences of employing illegal immigrants?

Individuals who illegally hire, recruit, or refer illegal aliens to work in the United States are in violation of Title 8 U.S.C § 1324. Criminal Penalty – Being found guilty of a criminal violation is punishable by a fine of up to $3,000 for each unauthorized alien and/or up to six months imprisonment.

Respondendo a

So that would eliminate many construction companies, roofing companies, landscape companies, farmers, etc. They rely on undocumented labor to exploit the system by paying cash and avoiding minimum wage laws. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone, citizen or noncitizen working for slave wages and being mistreated. However, I hope you realize a bulk of these businesses using undocumented labor are the very ones protesting to deport them. It’s quite ironic.

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