Georgia Lawmaker Arrested As Governor Signs Law Overhauling Elections
Repeatedly knocking on the office door of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp got one state lawmaker arrested at the Capitol on Thursday.
Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon, a Black woman, continued knocking on Kemp's office door after Georgia State Patrol troopers instructed her to stop.
She said later she was arrested for "fighting voter suppression." A law signed by Kemp on Thursday includes new limitations on mail-in voting, expands most voters' access to in-person early voting and caps a months-long battle over voting in a battleground state.
It has been heavily criticized as a bill that would end up disenfranchising Black voters. It's also seen as Republicans' rebuke of the November and January elections in which the state's Black voters led the election of two Democrats to the Senate.
Cannon is facing a charge of obstructing law enforcement officers by use of threats or violence and she faces a second charge of disrupting general assembly sessions or other meetings of members.
It's unclear what was said between Cannon and one state trooper guarding Kemp's office door.
Georgia State Patrol spokesman Lt. W. Mark Riley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Cannon "was advised that she was disturbing what was going on inside and if she did not stop, she would be placed under arrest."
Cannon's arrest warrant alleges that she "stomped" on an officer's foot three times as she was being apprehended and escorted out of the property, the AJC reported.
Several videos posted online show arresting officers were told repeatedly that Cannon is a state lawmaker.
As she is being pulled away, Cannon identifies herself as a Georgia state lawmaker and demands to know why she is being arrested.
She is seen yelling in one video: "There is no reason for me to be arrested. I am a legislator!"
Other officers then arrive to block onlookers from interfering. They eventually bring a shouting Cannon backwards outside and into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car.
Cannon is 5 foot 2, according to her arrest record. Her arrest by several larger, white law enforcement officers and the image of her being brought through the Capitol prompted widespread condemnation on social media overnight. And her arrest prompted comparisons to civil rights and police brutality protests from this summer as well as those of the 1960s.
Rep. @Cannonfor58 is arrested and lead out of the Georgia State Capitol building by GA State Troopers after being asked to stop knocking on a door that lead to Gov. Brian Kemp's office, while Gov. Kemp was signing #SB202 behind closed doors in #Atlanta #gapol pic.twitter.com/kw5FCrgqEm— Alyssa Pointer-Whitfield 🦄 (@APointerPhoto) March 26, 2021
Georgia's Constitution says lawmakers "shall be free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly" except for treason, felony or breach of the peace.
Cannon was charged and brought to a local jail. By 11 p.m. she had been released, according to her attorney Gerald A. Griggs, who spoke to a group of reporters and supporters outside the jail.
Griggs told the crowd that Cannon sustained bruising from her arrest. He was joined outside the jail by Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who visited Cannon in jail. He told the group that he is also Cannon's pastor.
Warnock said of Cannon: "She is understandably a bit shaken by what happened to her. She didn't deserve this."
“Why are you arresting her?” This Facebook Live video from @TWareStevens shows the moment authorities detained state Rep. Park Cannon as @GovKemp was behind those doors signing elections restrictions into law. #gapol pic.twitter.com/U1xMJ6tZrY— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) March 25, 2021
The senator questioned what made Cannon's actions "so dangerous" that warranted her arrest.
Cannon tweeted early Friday thanking her supporters and said: "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."
Griggs said Thursday night that the charges against Cannon are trumped up and they intend to fight them.
NPR's Rachel Treisman contributed to this report.