Thursday, December 15, 2016

Graduation Ceremony Disruption Serves as a Public Warning

On Wednesday, Dec, 14th, members of the Turner Field campaign coordinated a direct action at Georgia State University’s mid-year commencement ceremony. During the University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby’s commencement address, residents and students intervened with chants of “Dr. Becker, do the right thing” and “CBA or no deal.” Their chorus sounded through the Georgia Dome, and received focused attention from Hank Huckaby and Mark Becker. Huckaby berated the protestors, and incited police officers to remove them from the seating area.  

Asma Elhuni, JT Pennington, and Athri Ranganathan were pushed out of the Dome and taken to a holding room. There, they were detained and interrogated by police for two hours. The encounter was largely non-confrontational, though officers handcuffed Ranganathan and claimed he was lying about his name, date of birth, and social security number. After a delayed acceptance of Ranganathan’s information, officers issued criminal trespass notices to all three individuals. Asma, JT, and Athri are currently under a two-year ban from entering Georgia State University property. They are amidst discussions on how to fight this heavy-handed ruling.

The administration's back-turning to Turner Field residents, unwillingness to negotiate, and drowning of voices has incited community anger. The action was an intentional jab at GSU President Mark Becker and his refusal to discuss a Community Benefits Agreement with Turner Field Neighborhood residents. The threat of GSU-sponsored displacement of Turner Field residents is imminent, and must be countered. The Housing Justice League and its allies stand against the removal of Turner Field residents from their homes. It will continue this fight as the purchase deal moves forward and effects ripple through the Turner Field neighborhoods.

GSU is finalizing its purchase of the Turner Field stadium on Dec. 31st. The Turner Field campaign, a broad coalition of residents and students, is fighting for this purchase to benefit the community. The Community Benefits Agreement for which it is fighting ensures that GSU must gain community consent before developing the Turner Field stadium. The campaign prioritizes the right for residents to remain in their homes and for the community to regain legal ownership over its property. Turner Field residents demand that their voices be lifted up and seriously considered.    

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Residents and students gave a public warning to Mark Becker and his administration on Wednesday. The campaign commits to continuing action until GSU seriously engages residents and their demands. There is much at stake in the purchase deal, including the future of the Turner Field neighborhoods-- it cannot be taken lightly. 

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