On Aug. 20, the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission held a special session to approve a resolution affirming the local government’s support for Latinx citizens and undocumented Athens residents.
The symbolic resolution officially denounces white supremacy and “commits itself to working to reverse the damage that has resulted to black, brown, and all other minority communities.”
“We unflinchingly defend the human rights of all people, including citizens, noncitizens and those without documentation,” said ACC Mayor Kelly Girtz. The Mayor and Commission declared the city “cannot be witness to the violation of constitutional rights given to all people.”
The resolution was read aloud by Girtz in English and community activist Beto Mendoza in Spanish.
District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link said the resolution uses “the little power we have” in showing support for the Latinx community in the community’s fear of family separation and deportation.
The resolution comes in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3 that police say targeted Latinos and the arrest of approximately 680 undocumented immigrants in Mississippi on Aug. 7.
“When we saw what happened in El Paso and Mississippi, they were places that looked a lot like Athens, Georgia,” District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson said, adding he wants the community to “feel like there’s … another few people who have your back.”
Among several people who testified, one woman spoke of the fear that she and her daughters have of officers coming to separate her from her children. Another said that some members of the Latinx community are “scared to leave their house in fear of deportation.”
After the special session, the Mayor and Commission moved into its agenda. When discussing what it wanted to push for in the 2020 state legislative session when meeting with Athens representatives, the commissioners discussed requesting that legislators vote to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
District 8 Commissioner Andy Harrod asked if the commission should continue asking for things that the commission might not receive from the Republican-controlled legislature.
Also on the agenda was the topic of expanding a reduced liquor license incentive for downtown bars to a county-wide scale. If bars abandon glass bottles and only uses aluminum cans for their five best-selling beers, the county will lower the fee. The incentive applies to downtown, and the commissioners all appeared in favor of the expansion.
According to the agenda item, plastic trash bags downtown are “vulnerable to cuts from glass bottles,” which has injured staff from the Solid Waste Department staff. Aluminum is also more valuable, when recycled, than glass.
Moving the voting date for the commission election into November and discussing the audit of the county jail were also topics on the agenda. According to Commissioner Link, the county jail was audited due to concerns from the jailers about safety and understaffing problems. Conditions were “severe at our particular community but not unique,” as similar problems occur across the country, Link said.
The Mayor and Commission will vote on items at its next monthly meeting on Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.