Georgis — State Sen. Nikema Williams, a first-term Atlanta senator was among about a dozen demonstrators who were arrested during a protest in the state Capitol. The Democratic state senator who represents Atlanta said she was standing with her constituents when officers led her out of the Capitol rotunda and placed plastic restraints on her wrists.
“I was not yelling. I was not chanting,” she said. “I stood peacefully next to my constituents because they wanted their voices to be heard, and now I’m being arrested.”
The protest in the rotunda under the Gold Dome was organized by a local Black Lives Matter group to pressure state officials to ensure all absentee and provisional ballots are tallied. Occasionally, the group of roughly 100 people broke into chants of “count every vote.”
Authorities said the demonstration was broken up after several warnings because of rules that prohibit chanting or yelling while lawmakers are in session. The arrests began around 1:30 p.m. once the House convened in for a special session called by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Williams’ Senate colleagues condemned the lawmaker’s detention.
“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,” said state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta.
Williams is the first vice chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Party Chairman DuBose Porter said Williams was arrested “for doing her job where she works.”
“Today, (Williams) was arrested at the Georgia State Capitol while standing up for her constituents’ right to peaceful protest and advocating to count every Georgian’s vote,” Porter said. “We stand with her and with all Georgians whose Constitutional rights are at risk. “
Williams and other protesters were taken to Rice Street – Fulton County jail – located at 901 Rice St NW, Atlanta, GA. There was no immediate detail on how many people were arrested or what charges they would face. Her husband Leslie Small, posted on Facebook at 2PM he was on the way to bail her out!
Several supporters posted their support on Facebook in posts and comments like ‘Getting into “good trouble!”’ or “This is what “Good trouble” looks like.” One said they wanted to contribute to any bail Senator Williams might get. Legendary Hip-Hop artists MC Sha-Rock of the Funky Four Plus One More commented, “Much respect…. she rocks!”
Georgia includes a provision requiring that legislators “shall be free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly” except for treason, felony or breach of the peace.
Supporters of Democrat Stacey Abrams say thousands of uncounted votes could still tip the governor’s race into a Dec. 4 runoff against Republican Brian Kemp.
A federal judge has ordered a populous Georgia county not to reject absentee ballots because the voter’s birth year is missing or wrong.
The order issued Tuesday by U.S. Judge Leigh May says rejecting absentee ballots solely because of a missing or incorrect birth year violates the Civil Rights Act.
She ordered Gwinnett County election officials not to reject those ballots and to count any that were cast in the Nov. 6 midterm election. She also ordered Gwinnett County to delay certification of its election results until those ballots have been counted.
Sen. Nikema Williams and fellow Democrats accused Republican Brian Kemp of bungling the election as secretary of state. They cited problems ranging from long lines at the polls to an “exact match” policy that placed 53,000 Georgians’ voter registrations on hold.
Kemp resigned as secretary of state last week after declaring himself the winner in the governor’s race. He has insisted there aren’t enough outstanding ballots to alter the race’s outcome.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled Monday that the secretary of state must not certify the results of the election until Friday at 5 p.m.
She ordered the state to establish a hotline or website where voters can check whether their provisional ballots were counted and, if not, the reason why.
For all counties with 100 or more provisional ballots, she ordered the secretary of state’s office to order county election officials to conduct a “good faith review” or to do an “independent review” itself of the eligibility of voters who had to cast a provisional ballot because of registration issues.