Georgia State safety forum gets surprise protest for undocumented students

A group of protesters asks for Becker's response to DACA students' rights. Photo by Sean Keenan | The Signal

A group of protesters asks for Becker's response to DACA students' rights. Photo by Sean Keenan | The Signal
A group of protesters asks for Becker’s response to DACA students’ rights.
Photo by Sean Keenan | The Signal

Following a string of armed robberies on Georgia State’s campus, University President Mark Becker took to the stage Thursday morning to address students’ safety concerns.

Becker shared the speaker’s throne with Georgia State University Police Deputy Chief Lt. Carlton Mullis and Vice President of Student Affairs Douglass Covey to field questions from Georgia State’s student body on matters of school security.

But chatter of potential safety precautions and installations was drowned out by the cries of about a dozen protesters calling for Becker’s attention to state laws on undocumented students’ rights.

The group, comprised of Panthers, DACA students from Freedom University (FU) and other advocates blurted out requests for answer to qualms with alleged racial profiling by university police.

Victor Morales, an organizer and former FU student who claimed he was unable to enroll at Georgia State due to his undocumented status, said this protest was a necessary distraction from the event’s main intenerary.

“I would have loved to attend such a prestigious institution,” he said. “Maybe it was disruptive, but it was a necessary action. They don’t listen when we leave comments and send emails.”

Mullis said the police department had received no such complaints.

During the town hall meeting, student ambassadors mulled around the Speaker’s Auditorium gathering questions on notecards from the crowd to deliver to the panel. The protesters even logged some questions in the formal fashion, according to Morales.

“They worded the questions to their favor,” he said, “so we felt the need to disrupt these meetings so people can see the inequality that is spreading around campus.”

Among queries of emergency response times and police escort services, Panther students asked about the efficacy and sustainability of Becker’s quickly-installed plan to tighten up library security.

Of his reaction to double police presence on campus, Becker told the audience budget cuts will be made to offset the costs. He claimed tuition and housing fees will not rise to compensate for the beef-up.

“We’re using overtime [pay] and reassigning officers to accommodate the situation,” he said. “But budget cuts will need to be made.”

“Metal detectors are being considered, but they’re certainly not the first and most immediate next action,” he said. “We know every person who enters the library due to the card-swipe system at the entrances.

Plus, Mullis said, no one — besides the victims — in each of the three recent “armed” robberies confirmed the presence of a firearm.

And Becker said after questions of his stance on “Campus Carry” legislation, that the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents is in staunch opposition to letting student tote guns on school grounds.

Becker also said he’s on board with Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President of Academic Affairs David Jackson’s idea to install a MARTA-like “see something, say something” system. He also mentioned plans to sit down with SGA — and The Signal — to take the students’ voice into stronger consideration with future action.

“We agreed after this forum that we would meet with Student Government to discuss further action,” he said.

Mullis said GSUPD has recently teamed up with Crime Stoppers to offer a $2,000 reward for info on the suspect(s) involved in the two most recent library gun scares.

“You can remain anonymous,” he said. “And we do have leads we are pursuing. This is not a completely cold case.”

Mullis said, although the protesters took some attention from the topics at hand, he supports their right to voice concerns in a peaceful way.

“That’s actually covered by the constitution,” he said. “People are welcome to express their opinions in a lawful manner. I think that was a bit disruptive and it distracted other people from trying to get their point across, but this is the United States of America.”

1 Comment

  1. Hello I’m one of the organizers. This group was NOT a part of Freedom U. Please correct that mistake. Thanks

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