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Georgia legislator ‘shaken’ after being ‘dragged’ out of state Capitol

Georgia Rep. Park Cannon was left “shaken” and injured after being “dragged” out of the state Capitol in handcuffs and arrested on March 25 for knocking on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s office door as he signed a contentious voting restrictions bill, her attorney said in an interview.

Cannon is resting and spending time with family after the “violent” arrest, her attorney, Gerald Griggs, said Tuesday. Griggs added that Cannon is hoping to have the felony charges against her dropped: obstruction of law enforcement, and preventing or disrupting the General Assembly.

“We’re communicating with the district attorney and providing witnesses and videos that show what actually happened. We’re hopeful the DA will dismiss the charges,” Griggs said. “Then there’s the possibility of legal action after that. That could look like anything from violation of civil rights to violation of her duties as an elected official.”

Griggs said Cannon, who is Black, often watches the governor sign bills in his office in her role as a lawmaker. Video of the arrest showed two Georgia state Patrol officers handcuffing Cannon after she knocked on Kemp’s door to demand transparency as he signed the restrictive voting bill in a closed-door ceremony. She was quickly surrounded by more officers as she identified herself as a legislator and asked why she was being arrested.

Silent protesters wait to march with state Rep. Park Cannon who returned to the Statehouse on March 29, 2021 for the first time since she was arrested after knocking on Gov. Brian Kemp’s private office while he was delivering remarks about the state’s new elections restrictions.John Spink / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

She was taken to Fulton County Jail and later released on a $6,000 bond, said Griggs, who is also vice president of the NAACP’s Atlanta branch.

“She wasn’t belligerent,” Griggs said of Cannon. “She was merely asking to witness the attempt to take away voting rights for a large majority of Georgia citizens — particularly Black and brown Georgia citizens. She would have just witnessed the signing, she wouldn’t have been disruptive.”

Griggs said Cannon sustained injuries and her team is working on “determining the extent of those injuries.”

Police have said Cannon was “beating” on the governor’s office door before moving to the governor’s ceremonial office door, which was marked with a “Governor’s Staff Only” sign. Police said they warned Cannon twice to stop knocking or she would be arrested, but Cannon refused.

One of the arresting officers, Lt. G.D. Langford, wrote in a 13-page incident report obtained by NBC News that the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was “in the back of my mind” during the incident.

However, Griggs said Cannon wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary that day. “Most signings in Georgia are open to legislators and sometimes they’re open to the public. I don’t know why she was turned away,” he said. With that, Griggs added, Cannon doesn’t believe she did anything wrong.

Georgia State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, walks into the House Chamber of the State Capitol in Atlanta on March 29, 2021 after being arrested last week for knocking on the governor’s office door as he signed voting legislation.Ben Gray / AP

“She’s been reflecting on what happened. She’s been preparing for the legislative days that are ahead. She’s appreciative of all of the supporters,” Griggs said. “She’s focused on fighting for voting rights, civil rights, and to make sure she’s an advocate for social justice. She feels like she stood up in the spirit of her ancestors to fight for the right that many fought and died for and that many were beaten and bloodied for.”

The Georgia bill is among many passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures that seek to enforce strict voting laws in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s election loss. The Georgia law adds severe restrictions to the state’s election process, including requiring identification to vote by mail and making it illegal to give food and water to voters waiting in line. Georgia Republicans have called such legislation “election integrity” bills, but activists point out that these bills target Black voters.

As a result, activists have worked to combat the bill. Civil rights groups have filed at least three challenges to the law, calling on the courts to decide whether the bill is illegal discrimination.

“These provisions will affect all Georgia voters,” the ACLU says in a lawsuit filed on behalf of multiple organizations that engage minority voters. “But consistent with Georgia’s long and ongoing record of discrimination, the burdens will be disproportionately felt by voters of color, especially Black voters,”

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