On the morning of Friday, April 24th, the University of Georgia’s Student Judiciary, part of its Office of Student Conduct, found sophomore Adam Veale not guilty of a violation of the university’s code of conduct for his March 2nd arrest during an action of non-violent civil disobedience in favor of Medicaid expansion at the Georgia state capitol. State Senator Vincent Fort, County Commissioner Melissa Link, Athens for Everyone President Tim Denson, and other friends and fellow activists testified on his behalf and spoke at an afternoon press conference at the UGA arch. Veale and his witnesses argued that civil disobedience does not violate the Code of Conduct, but rather exemplifies its spirit, following its call to apply lessons from the classroom for the benefit of the community.
At the press conference, Veale noted that four other university students, who were arrested during a classroom sit-in protesting the Board of Regents’ ban on undocumented students, are currently being punished by the university through the same Office of Student Conduct. He called upon the university to reverse their punishment in those cases in order to be consistent with the principles of the university and the verdict in his own case. He said, “The University of Georgia must make a decision: are participants in civil disobedience to be praised or punished?”
At the press conference Adam Veale also said, “You shouldn’t need an all-star cast of political figures to avoid being punished for doing the right thing. There’s glaring hypocrisy in a university that names buildings after civil rights leaders, praises them in its history curriculum, and then prosecutes students for using the same tactics of non-violent civil disobedience that Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Alice Paul, and John Lewis not only used, but explicitly and strongly recommended for the movements that would follow.”
Veale called for continuing the growing movement to expand Medicaid in Georgia. The state government has rejected over $40 billion in funding from the federal government to expand its Medicaid program. As a result, 650,000 Georgians in this Medicaid Gap lack coverage. More horrifying, over 1,000 Georgians are dying annually because of Gov. Deal and the state legislature’s political posturing as hospitals close and people are unable to access the preventative care that saves lives. He said, “So that’s why I want to invite you all to join me next week, same day, same time, in going to Senator Cowsert’s office and asking him to do the right thing and publicly announce his support for Medicaid expansion. We won’t be cowed by the university’s attempt to restrict our political speech or by our legislators’ lack of political courage. We will continue the struggle for Medicaid expansion until we join our sisters and brothers in Raleigh, Lexington, and Little Rock in celebrating the expansion of health insurance and the saving of lives.”by