ATLANTA (AP) – An attorney for a Georgian lawmaker charged with two crimes after knocking on the door of the governor’s private office said authorities had in the case that took place while the governor was on live television talked about a comprehensive revision of the state elections, achieved too much.
State Police arrested Atlanta Democrat Park Cannon Thursday after she said she wanted to see Republican Governor Brian Kemp sign the law that re-restricts postal voting and gives lawmakers more powers to oversee elections.
Cannon has been charged with obstructing law enforcement and disrupting the General Assembly. She was released from prison late Thursday.
A state police spokesman said Cannon knocked on the door to the governor’s office public lobby and then knocked on a door to a private area.
“She was told she was disrupting what was going on inside and if she didn’t stop she would be arrested,” Lt. W. Mark Riley in a statement.
Kemp signed the bill before speaking. He paused his televised remarks while Cannon knocked and resumed the speech later.
“This was a law enforcement violation on all charges and I hope the prosecutor will dismiss the charges after reviewing the file,” Cannon’s attorney Gerald Griggs said Friday. Griggs said he had spoken to Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis.
The new law requires a photo ID to vote absent by post. It also shortens the length of time voters have to request a postal vote and limits where ballot boxes can be placed and when they can be used. Republicans said Georgia needed to restore the confidence of voters who believed President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud. They also noted that the law increased the number of personal pre-election days on weekends.
“We are expanding the voting rights in Georgia,” said Kemp on Thursday.
Democrats say the bill is a Republican takeover threatened by Joe Biden’s presidential victory in Georgia in November and the two Democratic victories of US Sens. Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in January.
President Joe Biden criticized the law again Friday, saying its Republican sponsors were trying “to deny people the right to vote” and the move was “an obvious attack on the Constitution and good conscience.”
Biden reiterated his call for Congress to pass statewide voting standards that would include statewide automatic voter registration, the voting of ex-offenders, and restricting states’ ability to remove registered voters from the lists. One such bill was passed by the Democratically controlled House earlier this month but is being opposed by the Senate Republicans.
“This is Jim Crow in the 21st century,” Biden said in a statement. “It has to end. We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act. “
Three voter mobilization groups sued late Thursday to block the law. They claimed it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution and illegally violated black voters under federal voting rights.
The Georgian Constitution states that during the sessions of the General Assembly the legislature should “be free from arrest”, “except for treason, crime or violation of the peace”.
Griggs questioned whether crimes with compulsory prison terms were warranted. An arrest warrant alleges Cannon resisted arrest by stepping on an officer’s feet, but Griggs said he saw no video supporting the allegation.
Griggs asked if the offense could be used for disturbing the General Assembly, since first and second offenses were offenses while only third and later offenses were offenses. Cannon has never been tried or convicted under that law, Griggs said.
The law against suspending a legislative session was challenged as unconstitutional in a lawsuit filed last year after people like Nikema Williams, then a senator and now a U.S. representative, were arrested at the Capitol while protesting the 2018 election results. All charges were dismissed in 2018, 2019.
29-year-old Cannon won a special election to the House of Representatives in 2016. The strangely identifying House of Representatives got into a whirlwind debate over the introduction of religious freedom protections in Georgia that opponents said would legalize discrimination against gay and transgender people. Back then-Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the bill after opposition from corporate groups.
She is a firm believer in abortion rights and has worked to reduce the spread of AIDS.
Cannon had another run-in with officers in February. She and others held a two-hour sit-in on a Capitol staircase after Cannon said it was inappropriate for a police officer to lead them away while Democrats protested electoral laws. Cannon put her ear to the megaphone of an officer ordering protesters to disperse, then requested an apology from another officer who took them away.
A crowd of Cannon supporters, including Warnock, gathered outside the Fulton County Jail Thursday, awaiting Cannon’s release.
“We will not live in fear and will not be controlled,” wrote Cannon after its publication on social media. “We have a right to our future and a right to our freedom.”
Warnock said Cannon was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is a pastor, and that he visited her in prison before she was released.
“We pray for them, we pray for their families, but also for the soul of our democracy,” Warnock told reporters outside the prison. “We are currently experiencing a kind of wrestling in the soul of Georgia. Are we going forward or backward? We will not allow some politicians in their longing for power to take us back. “
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jeffamy.