BLM Demonstrators And State Senator Arrested In Georgia's Capitol During 'Count Every Vote' Protest
“I stood peacefully next to my constituents because they wanted their voices to be heard," Senator Nikema Williams said.
Several people, including state Senator Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta), were arrested at Georgia's Capitol Tuesday following a protest organized by a chapter of Black Lives Matter, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Around 100 people attended the protest, which was called to pressure lawmakers into ensuring all provisional and absentee ballots turned in during the midterm elections are counted. The rally was peaceful with the demonstrators merely chanting, "Count every vote."
A close midterm election has made provisional and absentee ballots key to tallying up the state's new governor. Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams has filed lawsuits to ensure every vote is counted. Republican candidate Brian Kemp believes he is the winner of the race.
Law enforcement officials began making arrests when members of the House started to arrive for a special session aimed at finding solutions for hurricane recovery. According to WSB Atlanta, the protesters were told chanting is not allowed while lawmakers are in session.
Williams maintains she and the other protesters did nothing wrong.
“I was not yelling. I was not chanting,” Williams said while in handcuffs. “I stood peacefully next to my constituents because they wanted their voices to be heard, and now I’m being arrested.”
The senator added, "The Senate convened at 10:00 a.m. this morning. I’ve been here since 9:00 a.m., and because I didn’t leave the floor when they said everyone was dispersed I’m being arrested.”
Williams and dozens of other protesters were taken into custody at the Fulton County jail. Georgia mandates lawmakers not be arrested while the general assembly is in session; the only time the law does not apply is when a lawmaker has committed a felony or a breach of the peace. Because of this, many of Williams' colleagues were critical of her arrest.
State Senator Nathan Orrock of Atlanta (D) argued the arrests were an attack on the First Amendment.
“When a sitting senator, who is the vice chair of the state Democratic Party, is thrown into a paddy wagon at the state Capitol it is a stark reminder that our right to freely assemble is at risk,” he said.
You can check out footage of the protest for yourself below:
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