Eight protesters taking part in a rally and sit-in at the state Capitol on Monday were arrested after refusing to leave Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office.
Moral Monday Georgia, described on its website as “a multiracial, multi-issue coalition of citizens working for positive change for the public good,” held an afternoon rally and sit-in at the Capitol, with about 50 people gathering at the event’s start. Ten participants then moved into Kemp’s office to deliver a letter alleging that more than 40,000 Georgians do not know the status of their voter registrations due to problems in the state office.
Taking part in Moral Monday’s campaign were members of the New Georgia Project, described on its site as “a non-partisan effort to register and civically engage the rising electorate in our state.” Those 40,000 Georgians alleged to be missing from voter rolls represents nearly half the estimated 86,000 residents who this spring registered to vote through the New Georgia Project, according to Nse Ufot, one of the group’s staffers.
“The New Georgia Project began registering voters in the spring. To date, as the signs say, there are 40,000 of those voters [where] we have no idea what their status is,” Ufot said. “They don’t appear on the Secretary of State’s pending list — the list that says you need to carry your application, something is wrong — and they don’t appear on the voter rolls. If there’s a problem with their application, people need to know.”
The national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights has filed a suit against Kemp’s office and three Georgia counties — Clayton, Fulton and Muscogee — alleging tens of thousands of “missing” voter registration applications. Kemp has repeatedly said no eligible voter has been left off the state’s voting rolls, and he has called the suit “frivolous.” The counties, too, have maintained that they have processed all eligible applications submitted to them.
Though the legal proceedings continue, participants in Monday’s rally sought to put pressure on Kemp’s office on a different front.
“Today, [Moral Monday Georgia] delivered a demand letter and said they’re willing to sit in Brian Kemp’s office until the issue’s dealt with,” said Tim Franzen, a spokesman for Moral Monday Georgia. “Instead of dealing with the issue, they’ve just been arrested.”
After rally participants spoke in Kemp’s office for about 40 minutes, Capitol police informed them that anyone remaining in the office after 5 p.m. would be arrested.
After the clock struck five, eight participants — four men and four women — were arrested.
“Capitol Police made eight arrests due to protesters refusing to leave the [Secretary of State’s office] and the Capitol after the building was closed for business,” Georgia State Patrol spokeswoman Tracey Watson said. All were arrested without incident and taken to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.
Those arrested were:
- Joel Solow, 27, Atlanta
- Daniel Hanley, 33, Sandy Springs
- Gregory Ames, 66, Marietta
- Kevin Moran, 66, Tucker
- Katherine Acker, 62, Atlanta
- Lorraine Fontana, 67, Atlanta
- Morgan Swann, 62, Locust Grove
- Peggy Marx, 58, Lawrenceville
The eight were charged with Disrupting General Assembly Sessions or Other Meetings of Members under Georgia Code 16-11-34.1, a spokesperson for the Georgia State Patrol said. First-time offenders of the code could be found guilty of a misdemeanor.
“We wish [these arrests] didn’t have to happen, but the reality is that voter suppression is alive and well, and being several weeks into the election and having folks not entered on the rolls is totally unacceptable,” Franzen said. “It’s really a crisis of democracy that we’re trying to put a spotlight on.”