iThere is a trial going on that has importance to the protections for a free press across the nation. It is in the small town of Dawsonville in Georgia in the foothills of the Appalachians. It is oppressively Republican but there are a hand full of Democratic Women and men and Progressive friends who are challenging that and are supporting Nydia Tisdale, a Republican citizen reporter; who is a victim of not just injustice but by all appearances the vindictive use of the criminal justice system.
Reprising with highlights the history leading to this moment: in 2014 during the campaigns for the US Senate in Georgia a Republican campaign event was held at a private pumpkin farm, Burt’s. Among those present were Governor Nathan Deal, then candidate David Perdue, various GOP office holders and candidates, and the Dawson County Republican Party chairwoman. The event had been widely publicized in media including Face Book inviting the public to attend.
Ms. Tisdale has been a familiar figure in North Georgia as a citizen journalist having filed on YouTube videos of public events, in particular those related to government functions, county commission meetings etc. Intending to film the public campaign event she had obtained the permission of the owners of the pumpkin farm.
One of the speakers took exception to Ms Tisdale’s filming activities and asked Dawson County Deputy Sheriff Tony Wooten, in attendance, to remove her. The stories have varied as to whether he was off duty hired by the GOP or there in his role as Deputy Sheriff. He was not in uniform but was wearing a T-Shirt with a Sheriffs office logo.
There is a video that covers most of the “arrest” beginnig showing his refusal to identify himself. The video the goes on to show his face as his body is sprawled over Ms. Tisdales back and records dialogue in which Deputy Tony Wooten taunts and flings personal insults toward Ms. Tisdale.
Nydia filed a suit against Dawson County Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Wooten for false arrest in 2016. I am not certain of the outcome if there is one. It may have been settled but I cannot find confirmation.
Now Dawson County is taking her to court for wi misdemeanors committed at the 2014 event. According to news accounts conviction could lead to up to 5 years imprisonment. It is a reasonable assumption that the motivation is more revenge than the law.
To this point there has been little no real organized efforts in support of Ms. Tisfdale and her rights.
Now at last a group of mostly Democratic women are taking support for her in their own hands. It is in this oppressively Republican region a more courageous act than most can appreciate. — W. Lorraine Watkins