A Black lawmaker in Georgia was handcuffed and arrested after she knocked on the Governor’s door while he signed into law a sweeping elections bill that will sharply restrict voting access. While the lawmaker, state Representative Park Cannon, has since been released from jail, she’s now facing felony charges for attempting to watch Governor Brian Kemp sign a bill that’s been described as “nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.”
“I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression,” Cannon tweeted following her release from jail early Friday morning. “I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true.”
The incident unfolded last night outside of Kemp’s office, where a group of protesters had gathered to denounce the restrictive bill, which opponents say will disenfranchise Black voters. Cannon was there protesting the bill, and she decided to knock on Governor Kemp’s door, arguing for transparency of the bill’s signing. While police claim that Cannon was “beating on the door,” the multiple videos captured at the scene dispute that characterization.
“She wasn’t banging on the door,” activist Tamara Stevens, who filmed the exchange, told the Washington Post. “A capitol officer came over and said, ‘Don’t knock on my door,’ and she’s like, ‘Well, are they in there signing the bill?’ and he’s like, ‘Don’t knock on the door.’” In the video, when Cannon knocks once more, one of two white officers hovering over her says, “You’re under arrest,” and they proceed to handcuff her. While Cannon repeatedly identifies herself as a lawmaker and asks to know why she’s being arrested, the officers forcibly remove her.
“There is no reason for me to be arrested, I am a legislator!” Cannon can be heard yelling in one video. In another video, Georgia state representative Erica Thomas cries out, “She did not touch anybody, she did not say any slanderous words! But you’re going to tell me that you arrested a sitting state representative for nothing! She didn’t do anything but knock on the governor’s door.”
After being put in a police car, Cannon was transported to Fulton County Jail, where she was charged with obstruction of law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members. A small group of protesters gathered outside the facility, including Senator Raphael Warnock, who called Cannon’s arrest “a desperate attempt to lock out and squeeze the people out of their own democracy.”
It wasn’t until the early hours of Friday morning that Cannon was released, which she promptly announced on Twitter. After thanking everyone for their support and decrying her arrest, she went on to denounce the bill. “These restrictions serve no purpose other than to keep voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote,” she wrote in one tweet. In another: “Who — and what — are they protecting when they work this hard to suppress our vote?”
Following Donald Trump’s defeat, Republicans in dozens of states have been attempting to push through legislation that would severely restrict voting access. Georgia, which saw the victory of two new Democratic senators in two crucial runoff elections, is the first battleground state to pass such a bill. The restrictions in the legislation, SB 202, are sweeping: They include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding new identification requirements for mail voting, and making it a crime to hand out food or water to voters waiting in line — which are often interminably long in the state’s predominately Black neighborhoods because of the deliberate reduction in polling places. Just hours after Kemp signed the bill into law, the groups Black Voters Matter Fund, New Georgia Project, and Rise, Inc. challenged the constitutionality of “the voter suppression bill” in a lawsuit, which argues the legislation “will impose these unjustifiable burdens disproportionately on the State’s minority, young, poor, and disabled citizens.”
Cannon will be among those continuing to fight against the bill. “We will not live in fear and we will not be controlled,” Cannon tweeted. “We have a right to our future and a right to our freedom. We will come together and continue fighting white supremacy in all its forms.”