GOP Senator Snatches Phone from Student Confronting Him About Georgia's Voter Suppression: 'You Stole My Property!'

"No, I'm not doing that," Perdue said before grabbing for the student's cell phone.

Image via screengrab

In Georgia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp is in a tight race with Democrat Stacey Abrams, and voter suppression appears to be part of Kemp’s campaign strategy: Kemp (who is Georgia’s secretary of state) has been drawing a great deal of criticism over the fact that more than 53,000 voter applications—most of them in non-white areas—have been in limbo. But Republican Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) evidently has little tolerance for criticism of Kemp, who he has endorsed. During a Saturday, October 13 visit to the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, Perdue angrily snatched a smartphone from a student when asked about the controversy.  

In a video recording, the student (a member of the Young Democratic Socialists of America) can be heard asking Perdue, “How can you endorse a candidate….” before the Georgia senator grabbed his cell phone. Then, the student is heard saying, “You stole my property….Give me back my phone, senator.”

After that, Perdue is heard saying, “You wanted a picture? I’m going to give it to you. You wanted a picture?” And the student repeated, “Give me back my phone, senator.”

After the student regained his smartphone, he said, “That’s U.S. Sen. David Perdue. U.S. Sen. David Perdue just snatched my phone because he won’t answer a question from one of his constituents. He’s trying to leave. He’s trying to leave because he won’t answer why he’s endorsing a candidate who’s trying to purge people from voting on the basis of their race.”

The following day, on Sunday, October 14, Perdue’s office described the incident as a misunderstanding—claiming that the senator wasn’t trying to snatch the student’s smartphone but rather, thought he was being asked to take a picture.

In an official statement on the incident, Casey Black (a spokeswoman for Perdue), said, “The senator spoke with many students and answered questions on a variety of topics. In this instance, the senator clearly thought he was being asked to take a picture, and he went to take a selfie as he often does. When he realized they didn’t actually want to take a picture, he gave the phone back.”  
 
The Young Democratic Socialists of America, however, characterized the incident quite differently—saying, in an official statement, “Perdue walked into Georgia Tech’s backyard, and students aren’t allowed to ask him a simple question? It would be one thing to say ‘no comment’ or inform us he’s not taking questions. Perdue would have been within his legal rights to simply walk away or decline the question. But instead, he forcibly, suddenly and violently took their phone without justification or provocation.”

This month, polls have shown Kemp just barely ahead of Abrams, leading her by only 2% in Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Landmark Communications and WXIA-TV/SurveyUSA polls. If elected, Abrams would be the first female African-American governor in Georgia’s history—and Kemp’s critics, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, have accused him of trying to win by suppressing non-white voters.

“Jim Crow would blush if he could see this guy Kemp,” Sharpton asserted.

Watch the video below:

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.