Georgia lawmaker arrested for knocking on Gov. Kemp’s door calls possible 8-year prison term ‘unfounded’

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Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon, who was arrested last week after attempting to gain access to the office where Gov. Brian Kemp was signing a controversial voting restriction bill into law, said Thursday that her actions were justified.

“I felt as if time was moving in slow motion,” Cannon said, fighting back tears as she described the details of the incident. “My experience was painful, both physically and emotionally, but today I stand before you to say as horrible as that experience was … I believe the governor signing into law the most comprehensive voter suppression bill in the country is a far more serious crime.”

It was the first time Cannon has spoken publicly about the incident since her arrest. Video of her knocking on the door to Kemp’s office before being forcibly removed by police went viral on social media, drawing further attention to the new restrictions on voting.

Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) is placed in handcuffs by Georgia State Troopers after being asked to stop knocking on a door that lead to Gov. Brian Kemp's office while Gov. Kemp was signing SB 202 behind closed doors at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) is placed in handcuffs by Georgia State Troopers after being asked to stop knocking on a door that lead to Gov. Brian Kemp's office while Gov. Kemp was signing SB 202 behind closed doors at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon is placed in handcuffs by state troopers on March 25 after being asked to stop knocking on a door to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Flanked by a handful of supporters and fellow Democratic lawmakers at the base of a mural of civil rights icon John Lewis in Atlanta, Cannon described the law as a “voter suppression bill” and said that with “one stroke of a pen” Kemp “erased decades of sacrifices, incalculable hours of work, marches, prayers, tears and … minimized the deaths of thousands who have paid the ultimate price to vote.”

The Election Integrity Act of 2021, or Senate Bill 202, imposes new voter ID requirements for absentee ballots, limits the number of drop boxes across the state and gives state-level officials the power to take over county election boards, possibly allowing GOP officials to decide the ballot count in Democratic strongholds.

The bill, which Kemp signed into law just over an hour after it was passed in the General Assembly, also criminalizes passing out food or drinks to voters waiting in line.

Republicans say the law’s stricter requirements will ensure that future Georgia elections will be more secure, but Democrats contend it was designed to suppress the elderly and Black vote, and was written in direct response to GOP losses in the 2020 presidential election in the state as well as two runoff contests that handed Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. A record 5 million Georgians voted in the last election cycle.

Fortune 500 companies based in Georgia and others headquartered nationally, including Delta, Home Depot and Coca-Cola, have condemned the new election law.

In a Wednesday memo to Delta employees, CEO Ed Bastian said it was “evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.”

Cannon is now facing two felony charges from last week’s arrest — obstruction and preventing or disrupting a General Assembly session, according to the Fulton County Department of Public Safety website.

She told reporters Thursday that she is facing eight years in prison for those charges, which she called “unfounded.”

Park’s attorneys say the Democratic legislator is now raising money for her legal defense on a GoFundMe page titled “I Stand With Park.”

The fund’s initial goal is set at $1 million, and the page says that “any remaining funds will be used to protect Voting Rights.”

Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Ben Gray/AP Photo

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