Politics

Georgia lawmaker won't face charges for voting bill protest

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Key Points
  • The Georgia lawmaker who was arrested after knocking on the door of the governor's office as he made live televised comments in support of the sweeping new election law he'd just signed will not be charged, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
  • Rep. Park Cannon, an Atlanta Democrat, was arrested March 25 and charged with obstruction of law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly. She was released from jail later that evening.
Police officers place Rep. Park Cannon in handcuffs in the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, March 26, 2021, in this still image obtained from a social media video.
Tamara Stevens | via Reuters

The Georgia lawmaker who was arrested after knocking on the door of the governor's office as he made live televised comments in support of the sweeping new election law he'd just signed will not be charged, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Rep. Park Cannon, an Atlanta Democrat, was arrested March 25 and charged with obstruction of law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly. She was released from jail later that evening.

"While some of Representative Cannon's colleagues and the police officers involved may have found her behavior annoying, such sentiment does not justify a presentment to a grand jury of the allegations in the arrest warrants or any other felony charges," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in an emailed statement.

Republican supporters of the law have said it was necessary to restore confidence in the state's elections, but Democrats and other critics have said it restricts voting access, particularly for communities of color.

The 98-page Republican-backed rewrite of Georgia's election rules adds a new photo ID requirement to vote absentee by mail, gives the State Election Board new powers to remove and replace local election officials, prohibits people from giving water and snacks to people waiting in line, and makes some changes to early voting, among other things.

Informed of the district attorney's decision by The Associated Press, Cannon's attorney, Gerald Griggs, said, "We are appreciative of the decision of the district attorney after we provided witnesses to her and we plan to speak publicly very soon about our next steps."

A Capitol police lieutenant wrote in an incident report that Cannon was knocking on the door of the governor's office and wouldn't stop when approached by officers. He wrote that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was in the back of his mind and that he felt that if he didn't take action, "the other protesters would have been emboldened to commit similar acts."

Griggs and others have dismissed that explanation, saying it wasn't consistent with the facts.

Willis said her office's investigation included collecting statements from multiple witnesses and Capitol police.

"After reviewing all of the evidence, I have decided to close this matter," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in an emailed statement. "It will not be presented to a grand jury for consideration of indictment, and it is now closed."

The new law follows former President Donald Trump's repeated, baseless claims of voter fraud after he narrowly lost to President Joe Biden in the state that has reliably voted for Republican presidential candidates in recent decades. Compounding the Republican losses, two Democrats beat Republican U.S. Senate incumbents in a runoff election in January that flipped control of the chamber to their party.

At least four federal lawsuits have already been filed challenging the law, alleging that it's unconstitutional and violates the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race or color. Some of Georgia's biggest corporate leaders, including the chief executives of Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, spoke out against the law after it was signed, and Major League Baseball pulled its summer All-Star Game as a result of the law.