Georgia Activists Face Arrests, Blaring Sirens During Protests Supporting Undocumented Students

Undocumented immigrants aren't allowed to attend top public colleges in the state.

Fourteen protesters were arrested Monday night and Tuesday morning during coordinated sit-ins on college campuses in Georgia that demonstrated against a policy banning undocumented immigrants from attending top public universities in the state.

Around 90 students staged sit-ins at the University of Georgia, Georgia State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, on Monday, according to organizers with the activist group Freedom University. Six students were arrested on UGA's campus Monday night, and eight were arrested Tuesday morning at GSU.

The demonstrations happened Monday to coincide with the 56th anniversary of the lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, that protested racial segregation.

The sit-ins followed a state Supreme Court decision ruling that undocumented immigrants could not sue the Georgia Regents to gain in-state tuition rates for public colleges. The regents have a policy requiring students to provide evidence of their "lawful presence," but the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay temporarily, does not qualify

Protesters demanded the presidents of UGA, GSU and Georgia Tech publicly condemn the policies barring undocumented students from attending their universities. 

Happening now at Georgia State!

Posted by Freedom U. Georgia on Monday, February 1, 2016

GSU said most of the 25 protesters at its campus left when asked, but the eight arrested had refused. Police claimed the protesters were "disruptive" earlier Monday morning, and said through a GSU statement that they were "concerned about possible disruption in the building at the start of the university's workday." 

At UGA, most of the activists complied with a similar request to leave but the six who remained were arrested on trespassing charges. "UGA’s freedom of expression policy permits campus protests on all publicly available areas of campus," the university said in a statement.

Students occupied classrooms on campus to represent integration, and some wore butterfly wings to symbolize migration, according to organizers. The activists asked online for donations to help with bail money.

14 hours after holding an integrated class at Georgia State University, four students remain in an elevator in a...

Posted by Freedom U. Georgia on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

At Georgia Tech, the university turned on sirens in the building students were occupying in an attempt to get them to leave.

Student occupations have become a favorite strategy of campus activists in recent years, though few schools have resorted to arrests in less than one day. Turning on sirens in a building is relatively unheard of. 

A Georgia Tech spokesman would not explain the use of the siren in the building, but insisted in an email to HuffPost "that there was no effort to remove the students."

This story has been updated to include comment from Georgia Tech.

CORRECTION: This story previously said eight people were arrested at GSU on Monday night, when they were actually arrested Tuesday morning. Six students were arrested Monday night at UGA.

Police at Georgia Tech have turned on sirens on the student protesters, but they will not be moved. #UndocumentedUnafraid

Posted by Freedom U. Georgia on Monday, February 1, 2016


Tyler Kingkade is a national reporter covering higher education, and is based in New York. You can reach him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.