The Democratic candidate to be Georgia’s next governor explained her presence Tuesday at a 1992 protest that included a burning of the state flag as part of her opposition to Confederate symbolism.
Abrams, who would be the first black female governor in the country if elected, participated in a protest that included flag-burning on the steps of the Georgia Capitol when she was a freshman at Spelman College in Atlanta. Her involvement in the protest came to light just before Abrams is set to debate her Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, on Tuesday and two weeks before Georgians head to the polls to decide which candidate will govern the state. The New York Times earlier reported on Abrams’s involvement in the protests Monday.
In a statement to CNN, Abrams’ campaign said that her actions in college were part of a “permitted, peaceful protest against the Confederate emblem in the flag.”
At the time of the protest in 1992, the state’s flag contained the Confederate battle flag emblem, which had been a prominent feature of the state flag since it was adopted in 1956, when the battle over desegregation was raging in the South. The Confederate battle flag emblem wasn’t fully removed from the state’s flag until 2003.
“During Stacey Abrams’ college years, Georgia was at a crossroads, struggling with how to overcome racially divisive issues, including symbols of the Confederacy, the sharpest of which was the inclusion of the Confederate emblem in the Georgia state flag,” the statement from Abrams’s spokeswoman Abigail Collazo read. “This conversation was sweeping across Georgia as numerous organizations, prominent leaders, and students engaged in the ultimately successful effort to change the flag.”
“Abrams’ time in public service as deputy city attorney and as a state legislative leader have all been focused on bringing people together to solve problems.”
An article published in June 1992 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution contains a photo of a young Abrams participating in the protest, alongside students from neighboring colleges, where the state flag was burned. “[The student protesters] said the Georgia flag symbolizes a brutal time in the history of African Americans, and they demanded that the Legislature restore the original Georgia flag: the state seal superimposed on a field of blue,” the AJC article reads.
The Kemp campaign did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
CNN’s Joe Sutton contributed to this story.