ATLANTA – Illegal immigrant students and several supporters were arrested at a Georgia Board of Regents meeting after they sat in the regents’ chairs, held their own mock meeting, and then refused to leave.
Organizers of the event on the Freedom U. Georgia Facebook page contend illegal immigrant students from several Georgia colleges held a protest at the regents’ monthly meeting around 9:50 a.m. today in opposition to enrollment policies at the University System of Georgia.
“Seven courageous students – two undocumented students from Freedom University and five documented student allies – were arrested after taking over a Georgia Board of Regents hearing in protest of the state’s segregation of undocumented students from public higher education,” the group wrote on Facebook.
“They were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and are currently being held at Fulton County Jail. Please donate generously to the Georgia Civil Disobedience Fund, which is supporting the release of these students.”
The arrested students donned stickers on their chests that read #BoycottGeorgia and #EndSegregation as they sat in chairs reserved for the regents and held a mock meeting on college enrollment policies for illegal immigrant that featured testimony from state Sen. Vincent Fort, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
“These students are Georgians. They graduate from Georgia high schools and are being told they can’t participate in the American Dream even though they spent their entire lives or most of their lives here,” Fort, D-Atlanta, told the news site. “These are people who want to be part of the American Dream and are being denied because of their immigration status … It’s unfair and it’s discriminatory.”
Fort did not participate further in the protests and was not arrested.
Students briefly left the meeting room to chant as they marched around the building, then returned to the Regents’ seats and refused to leave. Eventually, they were arrested and escorted away by Georgia state troopers.
Freedom U. Georgia posted nearly a dozen Facebook messages throughout the ordeal, several with pictures and videos of the student occupation. One hour long video captured the majority of the protest.
In several pictures the students appear smug, as the regents, police and other officials look on unamused.
“Boycott Georgia, boycott Georgia, boycott Georgia,” the students and supporters chanted relentlessly with raised fists, videos show.
The students continued to shout the slogan as police literally dragged them away because they refused to walk on their own. When police prepared to transport the arrested students, they posed for pictures for reporters through the building’s windows, while supportive students and adults stood silently on the sidewalk, fists raised.
The “boycott Georgia” chanting started up again when police unloaded the students from the paddywagon and into the jail.
“We demand the Board of Regents rescind the admission bans on undocumented students. If the state of Georgia is hell-bent on supporting modern segregation, then we the people will refuse to support Georgia,” Freedom U. Georgia posted to Facebook. “We call on all people of conscience in the United States and around the world to move their business, their concerts, their conventions, and their vacations out of this state: to divest in segregation and invest in education.”
According to the Journal Constitution:
The demonstration was aimed at policies of the University System of Georgia that prevent students without lawful presence in the country from attending any institution in the system that has not enrolled all of its academically qualified applicants for the previous two years.
Ten illegal immigrant students in Georgia who received deportation deferrals through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have also sued the state in an effort to secure in-state tuition rates. Currently, illegal aliens in Georgia must pay substantially higher out-of-state tuition rates.