The arrest of Nydia Tisdale in 2014 at Burt's Pumpkin Farm/Brian K. Pritchard, Fetch Your News

The Jolt: ‘More than the freedom to do as you’re told’

Back in August 2014, the top of the Georgia GOP ticket gathered at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawson County for a rally. Advertisements were run in the local newspaper. The public was invited, and that included journalists of all stripes.

But party organizers suddenly got nervous when a gaffe-prone Ralph Hudgens, the state insurance commissioner, took the stage. A sheriff’s deputy on the scene ordered citizen/journalist Nydia Tisdale, positioned right in front of Gov. Nathan Deal, to stop recording with her video camera.

She didn’t, and the officer hauled her away – as she loudly protested. We know this because another journalist recording the event was not asked to stop. Among the few who denounced the action at the scene was Sam Olens, then the state attorney general.

Tisdale had obtained permission to do what she was doing from Kathy Burt, co-owner of the farm. In a subsequent trial, she was acquitted of felony obstruction, but convicted on a misdemeanor count.

The case reached the state Court of Appeals on Tuesday, and the video is now available. You can watch some 25 minutes of argument here.

Before a three-judge panel, Tisdale’s attorney, Andrew Fleischman, argued that the deputy never established himself to Tisdale as a representative of the private property owner. Said Fleischman, in part:

“The one person who never did approach her was the person from whom she got the authority from in the first place, Kathy Burt. So if a police officer approaches me, right now, and says, ‘You have to leave,’ can I rely on a piece of paper I have from y’all saying I need to come argue? Or do I have to simply take him at his word that I’m no longer authorized to be here? Without that element that I have to know that the officer is acting lawfully, truly, I can’t be allowed to stay in any one place without an officer’s permission.

“And think about the effect this would have as a policy matter on journalists. Journalists often make their bread by filming things as they happen, live. If all a police officer has to say is, ‘You’re not authorized to film,’ regardless of whether that person is authorized, they must turn off their camera in that moment. The film isn’t taken, and there’s no recovery.

“…Across the sea, there are thousands of people in Hong Kong carrying American flags, because they believe our country represents something. What they believe our country represents is more than the freedom to do as you’re told.”

Dawson County Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer argued that rally organizers had approached Tisdale, and that a police officer isn’t obliged to establish his bona fides. Said Greer, in part:

“The property owner wanted her off his property. It didn’t matter if it was a good reason, no reason, a stupid reason, or he just didn’t like what she was wearing. This wasn’t a public rally. It was open to the public, but it was on private property…

The obstruction statute is broad on purpose, because our police officers have an impossible job to do. And you can obstruct them in a number of ways – from being stubborn, from arguing with them, from simply not doing a lawful command…

“That place was a dirt plot 100 years ago. When you work for something, you have rights, too, as a landowner. You ought not have to confront someone to get them off your property. That’s why we have laws and why we have police officers.”

This has become an important issue in political circles. One year after “Pumpkingate,” the Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump took off. One feature of Trump’s rallies – which remain to this day – was an announcement at the outset that the affair is a private one, implying that they have the right to remove anyone they chose, for any reason.

***

Speaking of the state Court of Appeals: Lyndsey Rudder, deputy district attorney for Fulton County, has become the fifth candidate – all women, we’re told – for the Court of Appeals seat being vacated by Sara Doyle.

Doyle is running for a state Supreme Court seat.

Rudder boasts bipartisan support. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is backing her candidacy. Republican backers include former state House member Wendell Willard, who chaired the chamber’s judiciary committee, and state Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville.

***

Democrat Dana Barrett, who describes herself as a “passionate moderate,” has left her 640am/WGST talk show and will challenge U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, for his 11th District congressional seat.

***

In the aftermath of the Atlanta Braves’ collapse on Wednesday, we told you that many Republicans had said a 10-run first inning by the St. Louis Cardinals was the universe’s punishment for the Braves’ decision to downplay its tomahawk activity – a courtesy to a Cherokee member of the Cards:

“This. Is. Painful,” tweeted state Rep. Trey Kelley, one of the top Republicans in the Georgia House, midway through the team’s first-inning implosion. “Have to feel this is karma for the unjustified and rash decision to do away with foam tomahawks.”

Over at New York magazine, former Georgia political operative Ed Kilgore’s response included this paragraph:

[M]ore fundamental even than Georgia’s megaracist history, the practice of mocking and offending Native Americans, even in the relatively innocent context of baseball, struck me as violating the chief behavioral principle with which I was raised by a very southern family: being polite and not acting ugly. Being rude to strangers was something those rude Yankees — bless their hearts — were prone to do because they didn’t know better.

It turns out that the AJC’s Bill Torpy has much the same opinion:

It’s not so much that it’s terribly politically incorrect. It just makes us look like rubes. And we inhabitants of this International Olympic City don’t want to look like rubes, do we?

***

Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur has taken a deep dive into Georgia’s political appeal on the national stage. Jolt readers will recognize a lot of the ground he covers, but this tidbit from Guy Cecil, the head of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA caught our eye:

[Cecil] placed Georgia in the second tier of important states alongside Arizona and North Carolina, two traditionally Republican states where Democrats have won statewide in recent years.

He said his organization hasn’t decided where to commit resources yet but that the lure of two Senate seats make it likelier to compete heavily in Georgia.

“I can assure you there will be lots of robust conversations around Georgia, which I’m eager to have,” Cecil said. “It’s on our expansion list. And it’s something that we’ll look at.”

It’s worth noting that America First Action, President Trump’s super PAC, has put Georgia among its six top-tier states for 2020. 

***

Shortly after our colleague Matt Kempner published this important story detailing the relatively small amount of federal aid money that’s made its way down to Georgia a year after Hurricane Michael, FEMA released its own accounting. According to the federal agency:

In that year, Georgia’s recovery has moved forward with more than $65.2 million distributed through federal programs to aid individuals and businesses. An additional $50 million has been provided to reimburse local governments for response actions in advance of Hurricane Michael, for debris removal and to repair or replace critical infrastructure. As of October 4, 2019:

-- More than $12.5 million has been approved through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, providing grants to 5,000 survivors in Georgia for home repairs, and repair or replacing essential personal property.

-- More than $50 million has been approved through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program to reimburse local and state governments and certain private nonprofit organizations in Georgia.

-- The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved $52.7 million in low interest disaster loans.

-- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed more than 4.2 million cubic yards of debris from local communities in South Georgia.

That’s separate from the $3 billion in farm aid Sonny Perdue’s Department of Agriculture is expected to start releasing to natural disaster victims in the weeks ahead.

***

State Sen. Zahra Karinshak of Duluth, a Democratic candidate in Georgia’s Seventh District congressional contest, said she will report raising more than $200,000 in the six weeks since entering the race. Her haul includes contributions from two of her early supporters: Former Gov. Roy Barnes and former congressman Buddy Darden of Marietta. She also collected a donation from former attorney general Thurbert Baker. The former prosecutor is one of a half-dozen Democrats aiming for the seat held by retiring Republican Rep. Rob Woodall. 

The contribution from Barnes is worth noting, because the former governor is pictured on Carolyn Bourdeaux’s website as a supporter of her candidacy in the same contest.

***

Atlanta will be hosting a diverse array of political junkies this weekend. 

Conservative activists will be taking over the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel for a Georgia offshoot of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Several of the state’s GOP congressmen are slated to keynote the event. That will kick off the National Federation of Republican Assemblies’ biennial convention.

Meanwhile, the Carter Center will begin its 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum on Saturday, our colleague Ernie Suggs reports. The event runs through Tuesday and "will gather dozens of activists, peacemakers and community leaders from 28 countries to talk about ‘Building Solidarity toward Equality for All.'

Carter is scheduled to attend on Tuesday, despite taking a nasty spill recently that gave him a black eye and 14 stitches.

Then there’s the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, which is hosting an advocacy and campaign training program here tomorrow and Saturday as it targets “future leaders who are passionate about civic engagement and advocacy, including those interested in education policy and improving access to high quality educational opportunities for all Americans.” 

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