A Black Democratic legislator from Atlanta knocked on the door where Gov. Brian Kemp was signing the Georgia GOP’s new extreme voter suppression bill Wednesday Night. In response, Georgia state police handcuffed her, hauled her from the state Capitol, and charged her with two felonies.
On Thursday, after the Georgia Senate rushed to pass Senate Bill 202, Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill while surrounded by a crew of white male Republican legislators, as Rep. Park Cannon and other protesters gathered outside in the State Capitol in Atlanta. Nearly a third of Georgia residents are Black.
The Georgia bill is a broadside against not just the right to vote, but also efforts to mobilize Black voters in Georgia. That outreach played a key role in President Joe Biden becoming the first Democrat to carry the state in nearly three decades, and was crucial to the January runoff wins of Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, which delivered Democrats a Senate majority.
The bill makes it a crime to give voters waiting in line food and snacks, and introduces new voter ID requirements for absentee balloting. It also gives the Republican-run state elections board the power to replace county elections officials, and limits access to ballot drop-boxes.
Outside Kemp’s office on Thursday, Democratic legislators gathered to try to witness the signing of the bill. A video streamed on Facebook Live by activist Tamara Stevens shows Rep. Cannon, a Democrat who represents East Atlanta, knocking on Kemp’s door as the signing was going on.
“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.’ And it was at that point that I started filming,” Stevens told the Washington Post.
The video shows Cannon knocking on the closed door, before two Georgia State Patrol officers grab and handcuff her. Cannon is then dragged out of the building while a crowd of people protesting her arrest follow her. Photos taken by Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer Alyssa Pointer show three officers shoving Cannon into a cop car.
“You have a woman of color fighting for the rights of Georgians and they arrested her for knocking on the door because she wanted to witness our governor sign the bill,” Stevens told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cannon was charged with obstructing law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly, both felonies, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Police claimed Cannon “stomped” on an officer’s foot multiple times during the confrontation, according to the Journal-Constitution. Gov. Kemp’s office did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment on Cannon’s arrest.
Cannon announced after midnight that she had been released on bond. “Hey everyone, thank you for your support. I’ve been released from jail,” she tweeted. “I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression. I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true.”
Georgia Democrats were incensed at the news of Cannon’s arrest. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is also a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church where Cannon is a parishioner, visited with Cannon on Thursday night. He later called the new law and Cannon’s arrest “a desperate attempt to lock out and squeeze the people out of their own democracy.”
“This effort to silence the voices of Georgians who stood up in a historic election in November and January will not stand,” Warnock said. “The goal of voter suppression is to so demoralize the electorate that people won’t even bother to try. That will not happen.
This is not the first time a Black woman state lawmaker has been arrested for protesting in Georgia. In 2018, then-state Sen. Nikema Williams—now a Congresswoman—was taken into custody when police arrested a group of protesters challenging the results of Kemp’s contentious election against Stacey Abrams. The charges were later dropped.
Williams is now the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, and she lambasted Cannon’s arrest in a retweet of the video. “Arrested. For knocking on the door of @GovKemp while he signed a massive voter suppression bill into law,” Williams tweeted. “This won’t stop us from standing up for voting rights and being a voice #ForThePeople!”