To Sit or Not to Sit: How Hearing Room Design Affects Protest

pBecause of the nature of this research, credible resources were difficult to find. Many government site concerning the layout of the building or citizen visitation to the building were outdated, difficult to navigate, and often didn’t contain pertinent information. Due to this research issue, personal video and online interviews were done to determine the opinions of students who have participated in protests at the capitol building.

Recently, a bill known as HB 51 was introduced and bought to committee. This bill would affect reporting standards for campus sexual assault, and because of the content, many Atlanta based college students staged sit in protests at hearings.

The first hearing, when the bill went to sub-committee, was held in a room on the second floor of the capitol building. Seating within this room had space for a maximum of thirty people with interconnected metal and cloth cushion chairs. Around the room was standing space that was packed with people, three to four deep in places.

The second hearing, as the bill went on to committee, occurred within a space designed for another thirty maximum. This room had seating with pew style benches laid out in three sections, with poles in the aisles between the three impeding standing space and views of the front of the room. In the back was a narrow aisle that protesters stood in, again sometimes three or four people deep.

Students who attended both of these hearings tended to echo each other when asked to describe what the spaces felt like to them. Common themes included descriptions of the rooms as “crowded,””cramped,” “overheated,” “loud,” and even “chaotic.”

GSU student and activist Sandy Andino (who gave permission for her name and quotes to be used in this document) stated that she felt that the limited amount of seating was because “they didn’t want to [sic] many people there for whatever reason,” and that the “only reason [she] could see anything was [because she] was standing.”

In a similar interview, another GSU student and activist, Hunter MacConnell, stated that many who attended the hearings seemed “very clearly not comfortable for having to stand for [a] long period of time” and that there were a few people who sat “on the floor in front of the door just to last [for the whole] hearing.”

Video Interview: Hunter MacConnell (GSU Student and Political Activist)


Interviewer: Please introduce yourself.

Hunter: My name is Hunter MacConnell I am a student at Georgia State University

I: Why were you going to the capitol building when you did?

H: I’ve gone to the capitol building a few times, and both of them were for protests aginst the HB51 campus rape bill.

I: Can you explain what that bill is?

H: It’s a bill that would force faulty at campuses across Georgia to mandatorily report… I forget the exact word, just to mandatorily report felonies to the campus, and then the campus would have to report them to the police, therefore entangling the victims of the felonies in working with the police instead of being able to go through the campus for justice.

I: What was your role in these hearings?

H: Just sitting in and watching. Both times I worse stuff that signified I was harshly against the bill.

I: Did you know where to go for the hearing that you were there for?

H: Both of them I knew where to go, but actually getting to them was difficult.

I: How did the space of the hearing feel?

H: It was… cramped, very very cramped. There wasn’t enough space for everybody who actually went to the hearings to sit down, which is partially on account of there being so many protesters and media people there. But both times I had to stand up in the back to even get a chance to see what was going on.

I: To you personally, did it seem like a lot of people were there?

H: Yeah there were a ton of people at both of them but there weren’t, or wasn’t, enough space in either room to house everybody.

I: How did that lack of space make you feel?

H: It made it really difficult and it made me… I guess just feel cramped and like I was kind of stuck where I was. I had to stand in front of the door the second time that I went because there wasn’t enough space, and if I stood anywhere further up I’d be standing in front of groups of protesters.

I: Did the feeling of the space matter to you as that role of a protester?

H: A little bit? I thought it was… I probably would have stood up regardless, even though it was like a two hour long hearing both times, just because I want to make my presence known, but there were plenty of other people there that were very clearly not comfortable with having to stand for such a long period of time, and there were a few people who had to sit on the floor in front of the door just to last the whole two hour hearing.

I: Did you notice anything specific about the acoustics or the visuals of the space?

H: The visuals were a little messed up. It was set up so that there were three different sections of visitors and protesters and media and people who were called to talk that day. And there were, at least the second time, there were two pillars between the rows on both sides and they completely blocked off view for a lot of seats of any of the house members and definitely of the speaker at the time.

I: wWere you able to see the speakers from a sitting or standing perspective?

H: I could see them when I was standing, but there wasn’t enough space for me to sit down in a seat, so if I had sat on the ground there was no way. Even if I had sat in some fo those seats, like I said there were pillars blocking view of like the entire house and of the speaker.

I: Were you able to hear the speakers?

H: Yeah I could hear the speakers relatively fine, they pumped it through two sets of speakers that were above the chamber but they didn’t have ones on the sides, like behind those pillars. Those were like the main problem with seating there, was that you wouldn’t, it would be harder to see for sure and to hear because of the placement of the speakers.

I: Going back to the beginning of your experience at the capitol, can you describe how it was entering the capitol building?

H: The first time was easier, I had somebody to go there with me and show me the ropes. The second time entering was a lot more difficult. The outsides of the building that the hearing was at the second time, there are like little plaques next to the doors that say whether they’re for public entrance or not public entrance, but the sign that says public entrance and the one that says not are the same color and the same size and next to the same type of door in that building. So I ended up wandering into the wrong building the first time just because it was the first door that had a differnt sign on it that said public entrance, and then the security guard told me , after I had gone through the checkpoint, that I was in the wrong building and I needed to go back out and back around to the other side to enter the right space.

I: And did that make you feel welcome as a protester?

H: Not particularly. It was… I… it was… I was anxious when I entered the second time, mostly because of that, I couldn’t find a door and the one that I had gone into was the wrong one and the only other place that looked like, from a distance, it was the right place to go required you to talk to a security guard through the loudspeaker because it was a handicap entrance. And that didn’t even lead directly into the building, it led into a small courtyard between all the buildings, so I didn’t really understand why I needed to go through, or why I needed to leave the first building and go through the second when there was clearly a courtyard that led to more than one building.

I: As a protester, what did you think about the space of the capitol building as a whole?

H: The outside of the capitol building is very clearly not designed for groups of people to be. It’s very clearly designed as just a building the middle of the city, which makes protesting outside of the capitol difficult and protesting inside the capitol building in those rooms is difficult, as well just because of how small they usually end up being and the amount of people that go overflowing the room, you not managing to get in because of that and even within the building the numbering of the rooms was not laid out in a way that makes it understandable. I ended up wandering around for about ten minutes on the floor that the room was in because I couldn’t find the room itself.

I: Thank you for your time!

H: No problem.

Annotated Bibliography: Protest, Architecture of Cities, and the Built Environment

Fox, S., & Bell, A. (2016). Urban geography and protest mobilization in Africa. Political Geography, 5354-64. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2016.02.004

Sean Fox & Andrew Bell, faculty members at the University of Bristol and University of Sheffield (respectively), coauthored the article “Urban Geography and Protest Mobilization in Africa” which essentially states that there is no relationship between rapid urbanization in Africa and civil unrest. It “reviews the existing theoretical and empirical literature on the links between urban geography and civil unrest” (Fox, Bell 2016) through empirical investigation, theoretical and empirical literature, multilevel modelling, and the Social Conflict in Africa Database (SCAD). The purpose of this text is to oppose the long-standing theory that rapid urbanization brings about an increase in civil unrest and to describe how civil protest works in an urban environment. The intended target audience is researchers with the belief that rapid urbanization leads to increased civil unrest. Researchers, general public, and African workers specifically, will find this information useful as it finds that urbanization, a key in economic increase, does not lead to protest and civil unrest.


Hatuka, T. (2016). The challenge of distance in designing civil protest: the case of Resurrection City in the Washington Mall and the Occupy Movement in Zuccotti Park. Planning Perspectives, 31(2), 253-282. doi:10.1080/02665433.2015.1058183

Tali Hatuka is a lecturer and head of the Laboratory for Contemporary Urban Design in the Department of Geography and Human Environment at Tel Aviv University, as well as the author of “The Challenge of Distance in Designing Civil Protest: The Case of Resurrection City in the Washington Mall and the Occupy Movement in Zuccotti Park.” This article is about the way people define distance from locations culturally and how protesters actively challenge the boundaries of those ‘universally visible and valid distances’ (Hatuka 2016). The article utilizes research literature on the Resurrection City and Occupy movements, research articles on large-scale protests, and research articles on urban planning. The purpose of the text is to describe the ways that people and protesters actively push the boundaries of societal norm when it comes to locations of protest. The intended target audience is researchers, as they are looking towards those who hold the cultural norms that protesters are currently pushing. The general public and protesters will also find this information useful as it describes the evolution of protest.


Viernes, N. (2015). The Aesthetics of Protest: Street Politics and Urban Physiology in Bangkok. New Political Science, 37(1), 118-140. doi:10.1080/07393148.2014.995395

Noah Viernes is a researcher and faculty member at American InterContinental Unversity who wrote “The Aesthetics of Protest: Street Politics and Urban Physiology in Bangkok”, a historical article on the 2010 United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, or “Red Shirts”, street protests in Bangkok, and the urban physiology’s affect on city protests. It provides evidence in the form of articles on art in protest, articles on the 2010 “Red Shirts” protests in Bangkok, and articles on urban development. The purpose of the text is to historically document the 2010 “Red Shirts” protests in Bangkok and how the development of Bangkok influenced the need for and method of protest. The intended target audience is historians and those living in the west who may not have heard of the 2010 “Red Shirts” protests. Historians and those living in the west will find this information useful as it explains partially the political climate in 2010 Bangkok as well as the methodology behind the “Red Shirts” protests where some may have never heard of the event before.


Eberhardt, S. (2016, December 20). (PHOTOS) – Protests don’t sway Georgia’s electors from voting for Trump. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from

Steve Eberhardt, an Atlanta photographer, created the short article descriptor preceding photos showing protest not within the Georgia capitol building and not on capitol grounds. He gives evidence of this fact through photos. The purpose is to document evidence of protest across the street from the capitol. The intended target audience is the general public, especially people interested in anti-Trump protests. Protesters and those who disagree with them will find the information useful because it will either strengthen their argument or give “proof” that the other side is disruptive.


Beitel, K. (2013). Local protest, global movements. [electronic resource] : capital, community, and state in San Francisco. Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 2013.

Karl Beitel is a San Francisco scholar and writer who authored “Local Protests, Global Movements: Capital, Community, and State in San Francisco”, a historical coverage of anti-gentrification efforts in San Francisco and the clash between protesters and private and governmental real estate in an urban setting. His evidence includes 10 years participation in and critical observation of anti-gentrification in San Francisco, research articles on Urban Space, and research articles on eco-urbanism. The purpose of the text is to relay the history of San Francisco’s anti-gentrification movement and to explain its impact on the world at a local and global level. The intended target audience is general public and academia studying gentrification and efforts against it. Academia and the general public will find this information useful as it details the methods used to oppose gentrification in the urban environment and the impact these actions have had on the world.


Lipp, R. (2015). Protest Policing in New York City: Balancing Safety and Expression. Harvard Law & Policy Review, 9275.

Robin Lipp, a Program Manager at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, wrote “Protest Policing in New York City: Balancing Safety and Expression,” a research article on the importance of protest for disadvantaged groups, the importance of protest to influence cultural norms, and the coverage of protest. Evidence used includes union and governmental press releases, police press releases, news articles on protest in New York City, and news articles on protest in Ferguson, Missouri. The purpose of the text is to explain why protest is an important feature of the disenfranchised and the methods that the government of New York City used to divert or stop these protests entirely. The intended target audience is protesters, the government, the police, and the general public as a means of explaining the necessity of protest for the disenfranchised. Protesters, the government, the police, and the general public will find this information useful as it directly explains the uses and methods of protesters in New York City as well as the methods of the government and police in shutting down these protests.


Liberty Plaza. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from

This short piece posted by the Georgia Building Authority, a government organization responsible for all services associated with the management of 36 buildings and various facilities located in the Capitol Hill Complex in Atlanta, Georgia; it describes Liberty Plaza and how it is designed to be a space for public rallies and assemblies to reduce adverse effects on local traffic. Contained in the page are the original plans for the plaza, photos of the plaza now to describe what Liberty Plaza is and why it exists. The target audience is anyone interested in Liberty Plaza. Those interested in Liberty Plaza and what it looks like will find this page useful.


Mullis, D., Belina, B., Petzold, T., Pohl, L., & Schipper, S. (2016). Social protest and its policing in the “heart of the European crisis regime”: The case of Blockupy in Frankfurt, Germany. Political Geography, 5550-59. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2016.07.001

Researchers Daniel Mullis, Bernd Belina, Tino Petzold, Lucas Pohl, and Sebastian Schipper co-authored “Social Protest and Its Policing in the “Heart of the European Crisis Regime”: The Case of Blockupy in Frankfurt, Germany;” an academic journal detailing the Blockupy movement in Frankfurt, Germany and the methods they used to organize and reignite urban protest through a networking and location-based protest method. Evidence used includes German Blockupy news articles, Blockupy member interviews, Blockupy website articles, and books on urban protest. The purpose of the text is to discuss the success of the Blockupy movement in Frankfurt, Germany through the use of location-based urban protest, often on government property. The intended target audience is the researchers with an interest in Blockupy or other large-scale urban protest groups. The public may also find this information useful for the formation of future large-scale protest groups or to understand how a collectivist group managed it’s power to influence government through protest.


Bulley, D. (2016). Occupy Differently: Space, Community and Urban Counter-Conduct. Global Society: Journal Of Interdisciplinary International Relations, 30(2), 238-257. doi:10.1080/13600826.2015.1133567

Dan Bulley, a lecturer in International Relations in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queenâs University Belfast, authored “Occupy Differently: Space, Community, and Urban Counter-Conduct,” an article explaining the methods used by the Occupy movement, specifically counter-conduct. Evidence used includes articles on the Occupy movement, websites set up by the Occupy movement, police and governmental statements on the Occupy movement, and articles on urban misconduct in protest. The purpose of the text is to explain how counter-conduct worked in the favor of the Occupy movement as a method to counter control in an advanced liberal society through the use of public space. The intended target audience is protesters, academia, and lawmakers as they all stand to learn from the methodology of the occupy movement. Lawmakers, protesters, and academia will find this information useful as it describes the methods used by the Occupy movement, specifically counter-conduct, to counter control.


Velasco, A. (2010). “A Weapon as Power as the Vote”: Urban Protest and Electoral Politics in Venezuela, 1978-1983. Hispanic American Historical Review, 90(4), 661-695. doi:10.1215/00182168-2010-045

Authored by Alejandro Velasco, an Associate Professor of Modern Latin America at New York University, “”A Weapon as Power as the Vote”: Urban Protest and Electoral Politics in Venezuela” describes how protesters changed the political environment of Venezuela in the late 70s and early 80s. Evidence used includes interviews, excerpts from a popular Venezuelan news source (Diario de Caracas), and academic journals about urban life in Venezuela. The purpose of the text is to show the way that protest in Latin America brought about change. The intended target audience is researchers and academics in similar fields of research. Researchers might find this essay useful because it is thorough in its research and acts as a case study in Latin American protest.