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Athens Takes a Stand to Protect Diverse Population from Profiling

By Anastasiia Vorobeva
On November 16, 2017

On Oct. 3, Athens Town Council unanimously passed city resolution to protect diversity by forbidding profiling based upon religion, race, national origin, language, or immigration status.

    “We wanted to put something together which shows this is not the place where people would be hassled or bothered,” said Jed R. Nolan, member of town council and an attorney in Princeton. Council put into writings their beliefs that diverse population adds “vitality and opportunities for all town residents.”

    The resolution addresses issues of profiling and says that no town official or agency can “interrogate, arrest, detain or take other law enforcement action against an individual based upon that individual’s perceived race, national origin, religion, language, or immigration status,” unless an individual can be linked through a trustworthy source to criminal activities. The resolution was not a result of any problem the city was facing, says Mayor Tim Pike. “We are just trying to be a good neighbor.”

    It is an act of good will, the council noted, and it just put on paper what beliefs are already out there in the community.

    “We want everyone to know that we have a very welcoming community. It starts with the council and goes all the way through law enforcement and to the university and to our town residents. We wanted to put something together which shows this is not the place where people would be hassled or bothered,” says Nolan.

    The decision was partly influenced by recent political events, which might have made America look less welcoming to immigrants or intolerable of people of different races or religions. The immigration enforcement stepped up their game and arrested many illegal immigrants through city raids all over the country.

    “I think it would be impossible not to recognize the recent current events and their impact on our thought process,” said Nolan. “[The] Charlottesville protest was very disturbing to me and I want to make sure Athens is seen as a welcoming community.”

    Athens has a more diverse population than in most Mercer county areas due to Concord’s international recruiting, and the resolution is an attempt to provide a sense of safety and welcoming to people who are already here and who are still considering coming to study in Athens.

    The new policy does not mean that these groups of people would not suffer the consequences of their actions if they happen to be illegal, and if the procedure requires checking the immigration status it will be done. Instead, the policy is created to make sure everybody in

    Athens gets the assistance and protection from the town agencies they need.

    “We wanted to make sure that anyone who was a victim of a crime never needed to worry about that. That they should know that law enforcement was here to protect them,” said Lynne White, town council member.

    The resolution is not widely advertised for at this point and many do not know about it, says Carol Bard, town council member. However, Commissioner Chase McBride did announce it in the November 8 Student Government Association meeting to the organization representatives present.

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