On Saturday, Republican Georgia Sen. David Perdue reportedly took a student's phone when they asked about possible racist voter disenfranchisement at an event at Georgia Tech's Atlanta campus, according to a video of the confrontation. The unnamed student is reportedly a member of the Young Democratic Socialists of America at Georgia Tech, according to The Washington Post. Perdue was on campus to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp.
Some background: Kemp, while running for governor, is also secretary of state and oversees elections in Georgia. His office has put more than 53,000 Georgia voter applications on hold, according to The Associated Press. This group of applications is made up of "predominantly black" voters, according to the wire service.
On Thursday, several voting rights groups filed suit to force the state to reinstate these voter registrations, according to The New York Times. The lawsuit alleges that Georgia's "exact match" identification policy violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. "Exact match" means a voter's registration application could not be accepted if it doesn't precisely match government-issued identification, as The Associated Press reports. A dropped hyphen could mean your registration is put on hold under the state practice.
So, the unnamed student asked Perdue how he supports a candidate whose office oversees these practices.
"How can you endorse a candidate—," the student started to say, according to video shared by the YDSA chapter on Twitter.
Then Perdue is seen on the recording reaching for the phone. "No, I'm not doing that, I'm not doing that," Perdue said as the screen briefly goes black.
"You stole my property. You stole my property," the student can be heard saying to Perdue.
The senator replied, "Alright, you wanted a picture?"
"Give me my phone back, Senator," the student said.
"You wanted a picture? I’m going to give it to you. You wanted a picture?" Perdue asked.
The student then repeated their request to have their phone back. The video was turned right side up, and it appeared that the student got the phone back as they filmed Perdue walking away.
"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," the student said at the end of the video.
The unnamed student said Perdue left because of their question. "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 student said.
The student has thus far remained unnamed because they fear retaliation, but they are considering reporting the incident to campus police, according to The Washington Post. Bustle reached out to Perdue's office for comment.
The Young Democratic Socialists of America at Georgia Tech wrote in a statement to The Post that Perdue could have declined to comment, instead of escalating the encounter.
“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," the statement read, according to The Post. "But instead, he forcibly, suddenly, and violently took their phone without justification or provocation."
The group called the treatment a double standard. "Had the situation today been the other way around, and if the Georgia Tech student had snatched a sitting U.S. senator's phone, the student would likely have been arrested on the spot," the statement added.