Georgia lawmaker shaken but resolved following arrest at election bill signing
Rep. Park Cannon was forcibly escorted out of the statehouse.
Following the arrest of Rep. Park Cannon D-Ga., for knocking on the door while Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a sweeping election bill this week, her attorney said Cannon is “shaken but resolved” to continue the fight for voting rights in Georgia — and to clear her name.
Cannon faces charges of obstructing law enforcement and disrupting a general assembly session after she repeatedly knocked on the door of Kemp’s office as he held a private livestream of the bill signing. The 90-page bill adds new voting requirements for Georgia residents following the results of the 2020 election that flipped the traditionally red state to blue.
A viral video of Cannon, who is a Black woman, being forcibly escorted out of the statehouse by Georgia state troopers, even after she identified herself as a state representative, sparked national outrage. She argued that the public and other members of the General Assembly should be allowed to witness the event.
“It reminds us of the 50s and the 60s in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia and South Carolina,” Cannon’s attorney, Greg Griggs, said. “But I think the governor needs to understand that we are not going to sit back on George Wallace type tactics and not respond the same way we responded to George Wallace. So I think the rest of the country needs to take a very strong look at the tactics that are being used in Georgia. The Justice Department needs to get involved. There needs to be passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect voting rights. And we need the Justice Department to crack down on the tactics of these local and state officials that are trying to silence voters and silence people.”
Griggs said Cannon was arrested in an area that state lawmakers normally have access to and added she did not expect to be apprehended by law enforcement.
“She has access to all parts of the People’s House and so there was no indication that the ceremony should have been closed off. Many times when a governor signs bills that are going to go into law, it’s open to the public, to the press and to other members of the House of Representatives and the state Senate,” Griggs said.
Griggs told ABC News that Cannon plans to return to the Georgia State Capitol on Monday to keep working. He also said the state of Georgia should expect a “prolonged legal fight” even if charges are dismissed.
“She’ll be doing the job that she was elected to do for her district and the people of Georgia. And as far as the charges are concerned, they’re just allegations at this point. They have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Griggs said.
“The constitution of the state of Georgia is quite clear on that a duly elected representative cannot be arrested during a session. That’s a violation of the Constitution unless there are three exceptions: One would be a felony, two would be a breach of the peace and three would be a treason. We believe, based on the facts and evidence that we have uncovered so far, neither of those exceptions apply,” he added.
Griggs said he and Cannon’s team are in touch with the district attorney’s office and are hopeful that the charges will be dismissed.
He also said Kemp and Cannon have not spoken to each other since the incident — and that Kemp has not reached out. Griggs wouldn’t say if Cannon is owed an apology.
President Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock and other prominent Democrats have expressed support for Cannon, many sharing photos that compare her to civil rights protesters in the 1960s. When asked if that was her intention, Griggs said she’s trying to “make sure that the voices of the voters in her district and around the state of Georgia were amplified.”
Kemp has defended the bill and his decision to sign it into law and continued to do so Saturday on Fox News.
“Well, I can truthfully look in the camera and ask my African American friends and other African Americans in Georgia to simply find out what’s in the bill versus the blank statement of this is Jim Crow or this is voter suppression, or this is racist — because it is not,” Kemp said.
MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.