The Jolt: Democrats push for reform after George Floyd verdict, Kemp calls for “healing”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms during a news conference on May 30, 2020. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms during a news conference on May 30, 2020. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The murder conviction of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd brought an outpouring of emotion from Georgia’s politicians, from City Hall to the halls of Congress.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reminded the public not to view the verdict as an end to systemic racism.

“As tragedies have propelled our nation into a level of needed consciousness and action in the past, it is my sincere hope that the tragic death of George Floyd will forever be our reminder that the work towards reform, healing and reconciliation is not a one time event.”

Republican Attorney General Chris Carr emphasized the rule of law and a system of legal accountability.

“We must continue to protect the lives and liberties of all Americans and use this tragedy as a step toward healing our communities and our nation.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff said that while George Floyd’s killer had been convicted, “Brutality and racial bias will persist in our justice system until we enact reform.”

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the head of the Democratic Party of Georgia, also renewed calls for social justice reforms.

“I am praying for the country as we heal from this national tragedy and carry on in the march towards justice and equality,” she said. “This verdict does not signal the end of our work – it is only just the beginning.”

But even those who reminded Georgians of the limitations of the verdict also celebrated the outcome. Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., brought up her father’s remarks that the arc of the moral universe is long “but it bends toward justice.”

“Today it bent toward justice,” she wrote on Twitter, “thanks to the millions of people under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter standing up, speaking up and not letting up for humanity.”

With the exception of Carr, we haven’t heard from the state’s Republican leaders. As of early Wednesday morning, neither Gov. Brian Brian Kemp nor Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan had released a statement or posted any responses to their social media accounts.

No members of the GOP members of the Congressional delegation posted recently about a resolution to expel Rep. Maxine Waters from the House or Stacey Abrams’ appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, none had spoken out about the verdict in Minneapolis.

We will update this space if they do.

UPDATE: Kemp weighed in Wednesday morning:

”Last year, America and the world witnessed injustice with our own eyes. It is my hope yesterday’s clear verdict can begin to heal our communities and our nation. I join all Georgians in continuing to pray for George Floyd’s family and loved ones in their tragic loss.”

***

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock spoke Tuesday night to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd. During the interview, Warnock included this very personal memory of being stopped by police as a child:

“I was 12-years-old when I was marched through a grocery store, because I had my hands in my pockets. I looked too suspicious.

“And so the police marched me and a couple of friends, ironically all of us pastors kids, through the store. I was stopped and frisked and humiliated. And when, of course, they found that we weren't guilty of shoplifting, there was no apology, no acknowledgement of the humiliation.

“And if you ask black men all across this country, Hispanic men and women as well, people of color, you know you hear these stories that we know what it's like to have to tell our children and our nieces and nephews what to do when you're pulled over by the police, so that you survive that encounter. And so I bring that experience with me to the US Senate."

- MSNBC

Warnock added later that he will be advocating for the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill that would create national standards for police departments, require data collection about police encounters, and fund community policing programs.

“I’m going to be pushing my colleagues over the next few days and weeks to make sure we get the public policy right,” Warnock said. “The jury got the verdict right, but that does not solve this issue.”

***

Reactions to the verdict around the state were pronounced. We’ve rounded up the local responses in Atlanta, Athens, Macon, and Savannah.

***

We have a new likely contender for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jody Hice now that the congressman has announced his run for Secretary of State with former President Donald Trump’s support.

We’re told Matt Richards, a pro-Trump businessman from Walton County, is nearing an announcement to run for the deeply-conservative northeast Georgia congressional district.

And we’re told Richards, who now lives in Barrow County, is likely to seed his campaign with $1 million to promote the standard array of GOP positions necessary to win a U.S. House seat — anti-abortion, pro-Second Amendment, etc..

So far, we’ve heard a litany of names for the seat.

Among them: businessman Mike Collins, state Sen. Bill Cowsert and state Rep. Houston Gaines. Already in the race is former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a perennial candidate for House races in northeast Georgia.

***

Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was meant to examine Georgia’s new election law and why, according to Democrats, it makes the case for new federal protections.

The witnesses included Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, Georgia House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Stacey Abrams, and Emory University professor Emory University professor Carol Anderson.

But we watched the four-hour hearing and walked away with the impression that Republicans were much more interested in grilling Abrams, the former — and likely future — candidate for governor in Georgia.

Asked why she described the 2018 election as “stolen,” as she did in 2018, Abrams said she believed the election had been stolen from the voters and that the rules in place at the time did not allow every eligible voter to cast a ballot.

She also said she supports voter identification laws but feels that some of the changes in Georgia are too restrictive.

Finally, she also addressed Major League Baseball’s decision to move its All-Star game from the Atlanta area.

Abrams said she told league officials that she didn’t think such a move was necessary but that she believes individuals should continue to express their concerns about the election law.

***

House Democrats tabled an attempt by Republicans to censure U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters for comments she made over the weekend encouraging protests if Officer Derek Chauvin had been acquitted of the murder of George Floyd.

Hours later, Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges.

The vote to table the censure resolution fell along party lines, with all five Georgia Democrats in favor of stopping the bill and seven Republicans opposed. Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, and Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, both missed the vote.

***

Newnan’s congressional delegation is supporting the state’s request to President Joe Biden for a natural disaster declaration in parts of Georgia hit by a powerful E-4 tornado last month.

U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock along with U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, the West Point Republican who represents the area, wrote a letter to Biden asking for the declaration after touring areas affected by the natural disaster over the weekend.

The declaration and resulting federal assistance would cover eight counties that together experienced $28 million in damage during the March 25 storms: Coweta, Fannin, Gilmer, Heard, Lumpkin, Pickens, Rabun and White.

***

We’ve told you about the many Republican confabs recently that have resulted in censures and calls for resignations of the state’s top GOP officials.

The Savannah Morning News reports the latest Chatham County GOP meeting was such a mess it adjourned without choosing delegates to the state convention, who will now have to be named by the state Party.

A bit from Will Peeble’s story:

“(Chairman Dan) Hodges said this was uncharted territory for him, and he's unsure of the process that the state GOP will take.

“I don't really know what happens when you shut a meeting down. I don't know what involvement I'll have in it. I'm sure I'll be involved in that, but the thing is, I don't know what the [state] leadership is going to do," Hodges said.

When asked what he thinks the opposing group represents, Hodges said, “I don't know who they represent, but they don't represent the Republican party. I think it's a bunch of crazies. And there's a lot of good people in that group, but they drank the wrong Kool-Aid. It's easy to do that."

- Savannah Morning News

***

Politico has a takeout on the tensions inside the Georgia GOP with a Marietta dateline.

The quote that caught our eyes comes from Randy Evans, longtime GOP stalwart and Donald Trump’s former Ambassador to Luxembourg.

“I'm convinced that if infighting escalates, we could easily blow it, as well," Evans said. “We've got to figure out how to come together, really. And it's an easy thing to say but a very difficult thing to actually do in this environment… The consultants and the insiders will undoubtedly attempt to shift the focus toward a message that we can all agree, like we're not Biden-Harris, and so let's just focus on that. But I think some of these divisions are so deep that I don't know that that's enough."

- Politico

In Other News