Protestors believe that the Civil Rights Movement experienced a rebirth after a January 9th sit-in at the University of Georgia advocating integration of undocumented students into UGA resulted in the arrest of 9 students.
Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina are the only three states that still forbid undocumented students from attending state institutions. Georgia specifically bars undocumented students from the top five public universities, which protestors argue is a deeply discriminatory and archaic practice. Georgia also has a statewide law that specifically bans undocumented students from having in-state tuition at state schools. Georgia is the only state in the country that specifically prohibits both in-state discounts and admission to specific universities.
Protest organizers specifically chose to hold the sit-in on the ninth because on January 9th, 1961, the University of Georgia became the first university to be desegregated in the Deep South. There is a distinct parallel being drawn between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the push for undocumented students’ rights. Protestors invited Lonnie C. King, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and Loretta Ross, a leader in the push for reproductive rights, to attend and offer advice on how to advocate for civil rights in the South. Both came to speak at the protest, which was the first time in four years that documented and undocumented students shared a classroom in a public university in Georgia.
Protestors wore handmade butterfly wings in the classroom to symbolize the beauty of migration and used hashtags #54yearslater and #migrationisbeautiful on social media sites to demonstrate their unity. They posted signs outside their classroom stating "Desegregation in progress," a clear reference to classroom desegregation in the '60s.
At 7:45 p.m. police arrived to the scene, Moore College, in response to a call that protestors were refusing to leave the building after it closed. All but nine of the protestors evacuated the premises after the police arrived, but the remaining nine were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. Of the nine, four were undocumented students and five were documented. Before the police arrived, the protestors were considering staying the weekend in Moore College. David Williams, the director of the honors college housed in Moore College, had expressed that he would stay with them over the weekend in support.
The push for integration of classrooms with both documented and undocumented students is eerily comparable to the Civil Rights Movement. Protestors used similar methods, inviting a speaker from the Civil Rights Movement, and protesting peacefully. Ross said to the protesters that in the push for equality in Georgia, “you’re the ones we’ve been waiting for.”