Athens Civil Rights Committee
What we want:
An Athens Civil Rights Committee (ACRC) made up of a diverse array of community members that will do the following:
- Hear cases of discrimination and make recommendations for actions
- Study discrimination in Athens and make policy recommendations to the Mayor & Commission
- Educate the public about how to combat discrimination and what the options are when it occurs
- Less discrimination. The ACRC will work to develop better understanding and community across lines of difference, helping to reduce the ignorance and hate that lead to discrimination in the first place.
- A place to go when discrimination occurs. Currently, victims of discrimination have no governmental body to turn to. The ACRC will be there to listen and to guide them through their options for next steps.
- Better ACC anti-discrimination policies. The ACRC will use its experience and the evidence it collects to guide stronger and more effective anti-discrimination policies from the Mayor & Commission.
The political situation:
In November 2016, after ten-months of organizing alongside the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement (AADM), with thousands of Athenians participating in two marches and four rallies, speaking at the City Hall podium and lobbying the Mayor & Commission, we finally forced the Mayor to allow a vote on the creation of an ACRC. The six Commissioners who had been opposed also bowed to the pressure, substituting their own, weaker, commission-defined option instead of signing on to the one put forward by our four allied Commissioners.
This gave ACC staff the task of researching possible formulations of a civil rights committee or other options. The manager’s office will report back on its findings and recommendations in July. AADM and A4E are hopeful that they will propose an ACRC that matches what thousands of community-members have been fighting for. If they do, and it’s put into place, we’re golden. If something goes awry, we will be ready to ramp up the fight again this summer. Athens will have the ACRC its people demand!
What we want:
Athens needs comprehensive, enforceable anti-discrimination legislation that applies to all businesses, not just bars and not just downtown, and also in housing, employment, and education.
- More places covered. The Non-Discrimination Ordinance passed by the ACC Commission last year is a good first step, containing an enforceable mechanism for violating bars downtown. However, this needs to be expanded to all places of business in Athens, because discrimination isn’t wrong just when it happens at bars, and it isn’t wrong just when it happens downtown.
- More people protected. Georgia is one of five states without its own civil rights legislation, so the only protected groups are those covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. To those groups we should add protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and immigration status.
The political situation:
The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement (AADM), A4E, and the thousands of Athenians who have taken part in this movement won a significant, but partial, victory last year, when the pressure we applied led to the commission passing an enforceable Non-Discrimination Ordinance applying to bars downtown. The effort to go further on this front has stalled, as the movement’s attention turned toward the creation of the Athens Civil Rights Committee.
After the Civil Rights Committee is enacted this summer, we’ll have to see where to go from here – to pressure the current Mayor and Commission to enact more comprehensive non-discrimination legislation now or to focus on promoting the issue during the May 2018 elections so that the new progressive Mayor and Commission can enact it when they take office.