Voting protest leads to clash between police and Georgia lawmaker

Georgia Rep. Park Cannon, center, sits on the stairs of the state Capitol after police tried to move her during a protest Friday over election bills. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM
Georgia Rep. Park Cannon, center, sits on the stairs of the state Capitol after police tried to move her during a protest Friday over election bills. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM

A protest over Georgia voting bills led to a confrontation Friday between a state representative and a police officer who grabbed her arm to try to move her out of the way.

State Rep. Park Cannon and fellow Democrats then started a sit-in on the stairs of the state Capitol until they received an apology, which the Georgia State Patrol didn’t publicly offer. No one was arrested, and the sit-in ended after over an hour and a half.

The protest came amid intense efforts by Democrats to stop bills pushed by the state’s Republican majority that would require ID to vote absentee, restrict drop boxes, limit weekend early voting and set earlier deadlines for requesting absentee ballots.

Opponents of the bills have aired TV ads, held up other legislation and threatened lawsuits to try to increase pressure against the voting bills.

“The goal of me speaking today is so that Black people, people across the state of Georgia, poor people, mothers and seniors can vote,” Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, said as she sat on the Capitol stairs.

She compared the conflict to a prior clash in 2018, when Capitol Police arrested Nikema Williams, who was a state senator at the time.

Williams, who is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was participating in an event to ensure all absentee and provisional ballots were counted in the governor’s race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Prosecutors later dropped charges against Williams.

“The same police officers are still here today and touching Black women. It is not OK, and they need to apologize publicly,” Cannon said. “This is the people’s house, and we’ve got to protect the right to vote.”

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The conflict arose after protesters shouting “All Votes Matter” climbed the stairs leading to the House and Senate chambers as legislators were recessing for a lunch break.

Cannon positioned herself in front of an officer’s bullhorn, and then another officer took hold of her arm to move her away.

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