Adam Veale, a 20-year-old political science major, said in an interview he was stunned to learn he faced two violations from UGA’s Office of Student Conduct after the March 2 arrest in Atlanta.
He was offered a deal with the school that would have included 16 hours of community service and lunches with faculty members, but turned it down. Instead, he said, he’ll take his chances with a hearing before a judiciary panel on April 24.
“I was unsatisfied with that offer. We weren’t being reckless. This was an act of symbolic speech,” said Veale. “We were saying we’re not going to stand idly by while the governor and the Legislature refuses to expand Medicaid.”
You won’t be hearing the last of this. State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, plans to testify on Veale’s behalf next week at the Athens hearing.
Here’s the rest of the story from The Red & Black, UGA’s student newspaper:
Veale was allegedly involved with intentional or reckless disruption of the movement of an individual or group and with the failure to comply with law enforcement. Veale was offered an informal resolution but chose against it in favor of a formal resolution of a conduct hearing.
On March 2, Veale and four other people from the nonprofit group Athens for Everyone traveled to Atlanta as a part of the “Moral Monday” protests. They were attempting to lobby Georgia state legislators to accept Medicaid reform under the provisions outlined in the Affordable Care Act and extend health insurance to the 660,000 Georgians who do not have health insurance and are in what Veale referred to as “the Medicaid gap.”
Veale and 11 other protesters were arrested for blocking the south steps of the rotunda outside of the Capitol and were booked in the Fulton County Jail. They spent the night and were released the next morning.
A few weeks later, Veale heard from the university about his involvement in the protests and arrest. At that point Veale received a notification from the Office of Student Conduct that he had violated Georgia’s code of conduct.
In Veale’s opinion, this protest should not be perceived as a breach of conduct.
“This is a nonviolent political protest,” Veale said. “In the section of the student code of conduct that I was apparently in violation of, it has a little foreword. ‘The University of Georgia is committed to the marketplace of ideas and the freedoms of speech protected in the U.S. and Georgia constitutions.’ To me, political protests like the one I was a part of is the whole reason that conduct section is written, is to protect nonviolent political speech.”
Veale’s hearing with the UGA judiciary committee is scheduled for April 24. Former Athens mayoral candidate Tim Denson was arrested alongside Veale in Atlanta and is listed among the many people Veale has asked to speak on his behalf as a witness.
The Red & Black has reached out to officials from UGA’s Office of Student Affairs as well as the Office of Student Conduct but has yet to receive an official statement on the matter. This article will be updated as more information comes in.