Students Say Capitol Ban Unconstitutional

Updated:

ATLANTA,None - Channel 2 Action News has learned that a group of college students who protested cuts to the HOPE scholarship are banned from several state buildings including the state Capitol.

Channel 2's Lori Geary exclusively learned that the students are now threatening to file a lawsuit against the state.

Geary obtained a copy of a letter sent from attorneys Gerry Weber and David Dreyer threatening legal action.

Currently, the students in question are not allowed to go to the state Capitol nor any of the buildings surrounding it.

It started on March 8, which was a dramatic day at the state Capitol. It was the final Senate vote on cuts to the HOPE scholarship.

Georgia State University student Chijioke Ebbis told Geary, “Our whole purpose is to defend the rights of students against budget cuts, tuition hikes, fee hikes.”

Ebbis was one of the students escorted out of the state Capitol. He said while some of the students were yelling, there was no violence. He called it a peaceful protest.

He and the others were not arrested or charged with a crime.

“Instead, they were given one paragraph that said your First Amendment rights are no more. From now until the end of time you cannot go to the state Capitol. You cannot talk to a legislator. You cannot go to a public meeting unless you get permission,” said Weber, who is representing the students.

State Capitol police gave the students the so-called criminal trespass warnings.

The students said their First Amendment rights are being quashed.

“It’s blatantly unconstitutional. I think it strikes fear in anybody who wants to go down to the Capitol, at whatever political stripe they may be, because they might get one of these,” said Weber.

“For us to be quelled in this manner is a little upsetting and it seems to go against our rights as students and citizens,” said student Sarah Abdelaziz.

A spokesman for Georgia's Department of Public Safety said they just received the letter. It's under review and the agency had no further comment.

The attorney for the students said unless the criminal trespass warnings are shredded, he will file a federal lawsuit against the state.


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