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Tisdale arrested at GOP rally

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Dawson Sheriff Capt. Tony Wooten removes Nydia Tisdale from a GOP rally in Dawsonville on Aug. 23. Courtesy Brian Pritchard (click for larger version)
August 28, 2014

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — It was a week of mixed emotions for Nydia Tisdale, the camera-wielding citizen journalist.

She received a positive ruling on her two-year-old Open Meetings case against the City of Cumming. However, two days later, she was kicked out of another political event and this time arrested in Dawsonville.

On Aug. 21, Judge Robert Adamson ruled in favor of State Attorney General Sam Olens in a lawsuit filed on June 2012. In that case, Tisdale was told by the City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt to stop filming a council meeting that took place April, 17, 2012. She complained to the Attorney General who took on the case.

Judge Adamson ruled that the city will have to pay $12,000 in penalties and also ordered the city to pay attorney's fees in an amount to be determined at a later hearing.

"This ruling is a major victory for government transparency," said Olens in a news release. "Georgians deserve a government that operates openly and honestly. The essence of our democracy is that elected officials are held accountable to the citizens and that citizens are allowed to exercise their rights granted by the First Amendment."

City Attorney Kevin Tallant said that the city is going to file an appeal.

This will go to the Georgia Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel that will hear the case.

Since April 2012, the City of Cumming has allowed Tisdale to video record all meetings she attends.

The celebration was short lived by Tisdale, 51, of Roswell, who had been video recording the GOP rally Aug. 23 held at Burt's Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville for her YouTube channel and blog.

Tisdale told the Forsyth Herald she identified herself to the property owner, who even offered her a slice of pumpkin pie.

But the property owner has denied this, according to

But State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, on the stage talking about the state senate race makes a comment about Tisdale and her camera.

"I don't know why you're videotaping, but yes, I said puke," Hudgens can be heard saying in an audio recording of the event made public by

Hudgens said he had no problem with Tisdale filming the event.

But a moment later, Clint Bearden, former Dawson County Republican Chairman, told Tisdale to cut the video camera off or leave.

Minutes later, Bearden returns with Dawson County Sheriff's Cpt. Tony Wooten, who forcibly removes a screaming Tisdale and her camera.

According to a sheriff's arrest report, Tisdale was charged with criminal trespass and obstruction of an officer, or resisting arrest. Wooten told a judge that Tisdale had elbowed as well as kicked him in the right shin.

The arrest is being investigated by the Dawson Sheriff's Office. Wooten, who was on paid leave during a brief investigation, has since been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Dawson Sheriff Billy Carlisle tells that the property owner can ask a person to leave the property, and if they refuse, they can be arrested.

"If an officer's there, they can ask a person to leave also and if they refuse, then the officer can make the arrest right then and there," Carlisle said.

Carlisle said that his deputy was suspended because, "When there are serious accusations made against one of my officers, it is my duty to look into it," Carlisle tells the Dawson Advertiser."Those were serious accusations. I just want all the facts out there. It's standard procedure to place a deputy on paid leave during an investigation."

Tisdale, who says she did not leave the event without resisting, calls the arrest unjust, unexpected and unnecessary. She says she was simply there to let voters hear the candidates in their own words, as she has in the past.

"So they can make an informed decision," she said. "Many people don't even know there's an election going on."

Tisdale said she has bruising from the incident and is terrified to listen to the recordings of the event.

Attorney General Olens, who was also at the GOP rally, made comments in defense of Tisdale.

"If we stand for anything as a party what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera filming us?" Olens said. "What are we saying here that shouldn't be on film? What message are we sending? Because it's private property they shouldn't be filming? What is the harm? The harm that this poses is far greater than her filming us. What are we hiding? If we are telling you why we are running and what we stand for, what are we hiding?"

Olens, a longtime advocate of open government, in 2012 championed the first overhaul of Georgia's Open Meetings and Open Records Acts in more than a decade.

Gov. Nathan Deal and David Perdue were also speaking at the Burt's Pumpkin Farm event, along with Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black; Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Congressman Doug Collins.

Tisdale also has a federal lawsuit pending against the City of Cumming for what she calls infringement on her rights as a citizen.

In April of this year, the Republican Women of Forsyth County kicked Tisdale out of their meeting luncheon where several candidates running for public office were scheduled to speak.

In February, she was told to turn her camera off during a Saturday City of Roswell meeting.

"I'm usually pretty quiet, I'm just recording," Tisdale said. "I prefer to stay behind the camera."

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Tags: Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    Keep up the good work Nydia
    September 02, 2014 | 10:07 AM

    First and for most , I won't be taking the kids to Burts Communist pumpkin farm any more, and I hope other people think long and hard about going to Burts Pumkin farm this year. This was an open public meeting, The fact that these officials have a problem with being on camera should be a warning to people who select them and let them hold office. I guess David Perdue didn't have a problem with this sensor ship or he would have walked away from the event after this happened. I for one would have stated that I can't support this kind of treatment and walked away . I hope people see this for what this is, good ole boy harassment . This woman is taking a stand for all of our rights, I hope people can have some respect for that .

    Mike Cannon
  2. report print email
    Private property is private property...
    September 02, 2014 | 08:12 PM

    You do not have the right to freely record the event any more than you would at a Democrat rally on private property. If you are asked to stop taking video on private property and do not (key words here....PRIVATE PROPERTY), the property owners have every right to throw you out.

    Speaking of that, has this woman ever infiltrated and video taped Democrat-controlled cities and counties like Atlanta and Dekalb County, both of which are well known for shenanigans? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Rick T.
  3. report print email
    Yes, private property is. . .
    September 02, 2014 | 11:02 PM

    . . . private property. And if I invite Rick onto mine, then ask him to leave, and he refuses, and I ASSAULT Rick, I GO TO JAIL! Which is where Wooten should be.

    Dim-witted conservatives (including Rick) desperately want to make this about private property rights. But they miss the point: Tisdale's treatment by the "property owners," their rent-a-thug, and their Republican "guests," make them all look like a bunch of disingenuous, arrogant and misogynist control-freaks. They might not lose in court, but they are certain to win the disdain and condemnation of anyone who sees Tisdale's videotape.

    Sue Deaunym
  4. report print email
    Bad move on property owners part.
    September 05, 2014 | 01:13 AM

    "According to Johnny Burt, he instructed Wooten to get Tisdale to stop."

    Hey Johnny what is it you want covered up ? Or were you doing this to maybe get some privileged treatment from the corrupt higher up republicans ? I would really like to know why a business owner would risk or even try to go against a recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of photographing and recording open to the public events ? People are right to no longer want to support your business.

    Bad move in my opinion .

    Silence Dogood
    Johns Creek
  5. report print email
    Uneducated public
    September 05, 2014 | 11:08 AM

    Hey Rick T. I have to ask, how does one infiltrate a "open to the public political meeting" . Are you a product of public education ? No disrespect , I'm just trying to understand your use of the word "infiltrate" . I'm your time of education did you learn anything about the modern sunshine laws ? Did you come from that era that destroyed the Republican Party and crushed it's good name with cronyism and corporate welfare ?

    Sean Marsh
  6. report print email
    Having a public event on privet property.
    September 05, 2014 | 12:43 PM

    We are talking about a woman video taping a live event ! You make it out to be a privet property owner asking a belidgerent drunk to leave ! These are not the same things ! This was an open to the public POLITICAL meeting . I'm a republican, and I welcome the opportunity to see if my candidate is on record talking out of both sides of his mouth . What is there to hide in a situation like this ? This is the stuff that gives us republicans a bad wrap, and if you're going to make my party look bad by trying to hide a open political meeting in a shroud of secrecy, then you're the type of person our party don't need . Comments like Rick T's are of a dying ideology . Step aside and let the younger party members rite the republican ship that you and your era have completely run a ground . People like Hudgons, and Beardon need to crawl back in the hole they slithered from and stop trying to reject the future of sunshine reporting of a political story. Tony Wooten needs to find a new line of work. I to will not be taking my family to a privet property owners place that supports the virtue of Communisim .

    Mark Stewert
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