After participating in a protest of a restrictive abortion bill known as the “Heartbeat Bill” at Tate Plaza, some members of the Young Democrats of UGA made their way over to the Zell B. Miller Learning Center on Wednesday night, where the Young Democrats hosted Athens-Clarke County District 4 Commissioner Allison Wright.
Wright, whose district consists of most of the University of Georgia's campus, discussed many topics with approximately 40 individuals in attendance, including the recent allegations of racial discrimination at bars in downtown Athens, decriminalization of marijuana and a ban on plastic bags.
Minutes into her remarks, Wright shared an instance of students helping her see a local issue she was unaware of.
“One of the best outreaches that I had came from this campus from some students. They said, ‘Hey. When we go downtown, there’s this racial stuff that’s happened to us. We can’t get in bars because of the way we’re dressed,’” Wright said. “I was so naive.”
Wright said she met a group of students outside of the Tate Student Center who shared their experiences of racial discrimination downtown. The group gave her 17 pages of multiple detailed examples of discrimination, which Wright said “brought [her] to tears.”
“They remembered so much about when it happened that there was no denying it,” Wright said. “It was pretty powerful.”
Multiple steps have been taken to address these allegations, Wright said, including that dress codes must be posted and the addition of a “mechanism with our county now to bring those complaints forward” using videos.
For freshman biology major Arianna Mbunwe of Temple, Georgia, it was surprising that Wright was not more aware of discrimination among bars downtown.
“I feel like that’s what usually happens when you’re at a higher-up level,” Mbunwe said. “You just don’t know what people don’t tell you.”
During a question and answer session at the meeting, Wright was asked if she supports the decriminalization of marijuana in ACC.
“Heck yeah,” Wright said, while also mentioning that the issue is more of a state level decision and the complications of implementing it locally across UGA police, school district police, the sheriff’s department and ACC.
When asked about the difficulties of implementing a ban on plastic bags in ACC, Wright said she originally thought the issue was due to previous ACC Mayor Nancy Denson’s opposition to a ban on plastic bags, but now feels the Mayor & Commission are working on larger issues instead.
“Everything takes time and energy and resources from our staff and us to learn. We’re working through our goals and objectives and I’m not sure that that came up once,” Wright said. “I’m only saying that because I think we’re working on bigger issues because we can with [Mayor] Kelly [Girtz].”
Wright concluded Wednesday night’s Young Democrats of UGA meeting with a spark of optimism and a willingness to connect with her constituents.
“I think we’re in a great place. I’m enjoying working with the new commissioners, and I want to get the stuff done that we can get done,” Wright said. “But, I also want to learn what we’re not doing that we can be doing.”