Georgia Democratic state Sen. Nikema Williams was arrested Tuesday during a protest at Georgia’s Capitol building in Atlanta. Williams was protesting as part of a “count every vote” rally and was taken into custody after Georgia State Patrol said she unlawfully disrupted the “orderly conduct of official business.”
After she was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice and released from Fulton County Jail the same day, Williams claimed her arrest was racially motivated.
“I joined [the protesters] on the floor, and I was singled out as a black female senator,” said Williams. “I was singled out and arrested for standing with so many Georgians who are demanding that every vote be counted.”
“I am incredibly proud and will continue to stand with the citizens of Georgia to demand that their votes be counted,” the state senator said.
BREAKING: @NikemaForSenate just got released from jail after being arrested at today’s #counteveryvote rally at the Georgia Capitol. “I am incredibly proud and will continue to stand with the citizens of Georgia to demand that their votes be counted.” pic.twitter.com/SA5V3F1oAN
— Care In Action (@CareInActionUSA) November 14, 2018
Welcome to Georgia
Welcome to Georgia, where armed members of the New Black Panther Party, an acknowledged hate group, roamed the streets on Nov. 3 with rifles and shotguns to stump for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who wants to take their guns away. Like Williams’ protest, the black separatists were seeking to bring attention to “voter suppression,” although their demonstration was armed and came before the midterm election.
Unofficial returns show that Republican Brian Kemp leads Democrat Stacey Abrams by about 58,000 votes. Abrams is fighting to become the first African American woman to become governor in U.S. history, and she would need about 18,000 more votes to trigger an automatic runoff election.
Abrams insists that poor and minority voters ran into barriers on Election Day that could make up for her deficit and force a runoff. Williams was present at the Capitol building on Tuesday to demand that ineligible ballots are counted.
A lost cause
Speaking to The Washington Post following her arrest, Williams said that she was arrested “because I refused to leave the floor of this building where I’m a state senator,” adding the protest was peaceful.
Williams’ Democratic allies from the Georgia General Assembly have backed up her claims of a racially-motivated arrest. Democratic state Rep. David Dreyer strongly suggested that Williams because she was black, telling reporters that he was also at the rotunda where the protesters were located, but “for some reason, Sen. Williams was treated differently than [how he] was treated.”
— Maya T. Prabhu (@MayaTPrabhu) November 13, 2018
While Dreyer didn’t explicitly blame race for his colleague’s arrest, he cited general arrest figures that indicate inequities in the criminal justice system. He blamed the high rate of arrests among black women on “the bias and the way that our laws are enforced.”
Williams and 14 other protesters who went to jail to demand that every vote is counted in Georgia aren’t likely to change the election result in the governor’s race. Kemp is right to point to his “insurmountable lead,” and even if the hundreds of ballots rejected for irregularities are counted, he will still hold the state’s top job at the end of the day.