Rep. Park Cannon was arrested for simply knocking on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office, after he quickly signed legislation that is being likened to modern day Jim Crow. (Courtesy Photo)
By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
After the abolition of slavery in 1865, it took a century of activism, at the risk of punishment and death, for Congress to pass and President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, in less than 56 years since the bill’s passing and about four months since Georgia certified its votes for the 2020 presidential election, Georgia Republicans rushed to pass legislation that President Joe Biden called “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”
On March 25, Georgia Republicans quickly passed the Election Integrity Act of 2021, in both chambers and Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the legislation into law later that evening. In a matter of hours legislation passed, essentially making the voting process harder and less accessible for Georgia voters.
The Election Integrity Act of 2021 forbids the government from receiving grants from the private sector, forces new voter identification requirements and reduces the use of ballot boxes for absentee ballots, allows state leaders to interfere with and control the local elections boards, prohibits the use of voter vans, making it illegal for people to hand out food and water to voters standing in line. With communities of color, the elderly, sick and those less fortunate facing issues of accessibility to get to the booths or the ability to stand in line for hours to to place a ballot, many Democratic leaders and activists are calling the Georgia Republicans’ actions modern voter suppression.
“The Republican party has surely lost whatever shred of credibility they had as being a party concerned about protecting democracy and the voting rights of Black and Brown communities,” said People for the American Way (PFAW) President Ben Jealous. actions were a throwback to the Jim Crow era — a room full of White men signing laws to take away the rights of African Americans and using law enforcement to squash peaceful dissent.”
The new legislation comes after President Donald Trump claimed voter fraud and pressured Gov. Kemp to not certify the Georgia presidential election confirming Biden as the winner in November and December. Kemp did not acquiesce to the requests of Trump, but quickly signed legislation that will surely be a barrier in getting Black voters to exercise their civic duties.
Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) is escorted out of the Georgia Capitol by Georgia state troopers after being asked to stop knocking on a door that lead to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office while Kemp was speaking after signing a sweeping overhaul of state elections behind closed doors in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021. An attorney for Cannon says it’s “law enforcement overreach” to charge the Georgia House member with two felonies. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
“By making it easy to vote and hard to cheat, we can ensure Georgia’s elections are safe, accessible and fair,” Kemp tweeted with a photo of him signing the legislation under a painting of a plantation.
As someone who was unintentionally caught in the Georgia election crossfire, President Biden weighed in on the state legislature’s quick actions to suppress the vote.
“In Georgia we saw this most historic demonstration of power of the vote twice- in November and then again in the runoff election for the U.S. Senate seats in January. Recount after recount and court case after court case upheld the integrity and outcome of a clearly free, fair, and secure democratic process,” President Biden said in an official White House statement. “Yet instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote.
Biden also said that Republicans in other states are working on similar legislation to Georgia’s new bill and called the law a, “blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.”
Democratic State Representative Park Cannon, who was Georgia’s youngest and one of three openly gay legislators when she was elected in 2016, was arrested when knocking on the door of Gov. Kemp’s office the day he signed the bill. According to Georgia Capitol police officers, Cannon “was beating on the door to the Governor’s office,” and was asked to stop. The officers said Cannon then proceeded to knock on Kemp’s ceremonial office door, which has a “Governor’s Staff Only,” sign. Because she did not stop knocking, the police arrested the barrier-breaking elected official, who is now facing charges of felony obstruction and preventing or disrupting the general assembly session, according to CNN.
“As part of the day Georgia State Representative Park Cannon is a hero and her arrest sends a chilling message about how far the right wing will go to destroy democracy,” Jealous said of the incident.
Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), who is Cannon’s pastor, also expressed his support for the Georgia Representative.
“I’m so thankful for , a friend and parishioner, who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, even in the face of unjust arrest. Always ready to stand alongside you and get into some good trouble,” Warnock tweeted.
Cannon alluded to fellow Georgians, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Congressman John Lewis, who got into “good trouble,” when she announced she took to social media after being arrested.
“Hey everyone, thank you for your support. I’ve been released from jail. 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,” Cannon tweeted.
Many leaders against the new law allowed for the passing of the bill to be a moment to emphasize the importance of Congress passing legislation that will protect the voting rights of all people.
“Jim Crow is alive and well and it’s time for Congress and the Biden Administration to act. We need to immediately end the Jim Crow filibuster and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, S.1.,” PFAW President Jealous said in a statement.
“I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote,” Biden said.