ideo of Georgia Rep. Park Cannon being dragged from the state Capitol spread quickly across social media last week. The sight of the young queer Black woman, a duly elected member of the state legislature, violently arrested for knocking on the governor’s office door shocked many.
In a recent interview, Cannon told Don Lemon she was terrified and afraid at the time of the arrest. But she felt transparency was important given the rushed nature of the bill.
Cannon shared that as the House Democratic caucus secretary, “it has always been my job to take minutes and to be present to witness bill signings.” Gov. Brian Kemp instead chose to quickly sign the bill, behind closed doors, in the presence of six white male legislators under a picture of a notorious slave plantation.
The arrest bore a striking resemblance to the arrest of then state Sen. Nikema Williams at the Capitol during a special session in December 2018. Williams now represents the 5th Congressional District, a seat previously held by the late John Lewis.
Two years ago, Cannon’s House colleague Rep. Renitta Shannon went viral after an impassioned speech against an unconstitutional six-week abortion ban. Shannon refused to yield the House well after her time ran out. Georgia does not have the filibuster, and Shannon felt it was the only thing she could do at that moment. Shannon recently told Roland Martin that it’s not uncommon for elected officials to witness bill signings.
Elected in February 2016, Cannon succeeded former state Rep. Simone Bell. Bell said watching Cannon’s arrest was traumatizing.
“When they grabbed her, I don’t even have a word for it,” recalled Bell. “[But] I knew immediately, this is wrong. This should not be happening.”
Bell said she thought back to the history of Black legislators from the Georgia Capitol after the civil war. And then thought about the history of Black and queer organizers.
“I saw myself at Park’s age standing up for things that I believed were right,” said Bell.
Like Cannon, young Black legislators are the vanguard against some of the worst legislation in the country. Not burdened by respectability politics and rules of decorum, these legislators center equity injustice and are fighting to protect democracy.
In Florida, a new trifecta is making its voice heard in the statehouse. Reps. Angie Nixon, Travaris McCurdy, and Michele K. Rayner-Goolsby left it all on the House floor last week during the debate on H.B. 1
The Florida House debated H.B. 1, an anti-protest bill backed by Governor Ron DeSantis, for close to five hours before its passage. All newly elected representatives, the “trifecta” did not mince words on the harmful impact on communities traditionally seeking justice.
“Some of our greatest moments in this nation are rooted in protest,” Nixon exclaimed. “This bill is designed to keep us fearful. To keep us in check.”
“Let’s be honest, y’all know this bill is bad,” Rayner-Goolsby said, pointing to her colleagues in the chamber. “But deep down, we know that this bill will only increase the number of people in prison.” She called out the bill’s unfunded mandate that would shift the financial burden to local governments and constituents.
Rayner-Goolsby continued her floor remarks to highlight the importance of protest for marginalized communities. “There’s something I gotta let you understand today, as that when it comes to Black lives, Brown lives and LGBTQ lives, in many cases, protesting has been the only tool at our disposal to bring injustices to light,” Rayner Goolsby said.
McCurdy said the bill reeked of a new Jim Crow. “Words did not free slaves,” McCurdy began. “Words did not give women the right to vote. Words did not end Jim crow. And in order for this country to attempt to live up to its full potential, it took protests, civil disobedience, generation after generation.”
Similar to the wave of anti-voting rights bills popping up in statehouses across the country, anti-protest bills increased as well. Republicans like those in Florida used the Jan. 6 insurrection as a pretense to further criminalize Black and Brown organizers’ actions.
“I’ve seen a surge and what we’re calling anti-protest legislation, which for the record, is voter suppression,” said Jamecia Decree, the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Justice Project’s manager of political partnerships. “They want to suppress our vote, and then they want to criminalize how we respond.”
Nixon told NewsOne that it’s important to keep speaking up so that hopefully, the next generation will not have to fight so hard. She said the bills fast-tracked in Florida and across the country put Black lives at risk.
“From the attack on our first amendment rights, raiding trust funds that assist communities with affordable housing, attempts to make school boards less diverse and more elitist and continually allowing tax breaks and corporate welfare for big businesses, it’s clear these policies are designed to keep the working class and Black and Brown people hopeless, disenfranchised and afraid to use their voices to fight for equality,” Nixon explained.
She wants to end the cycle so that Black, Brown, and other impacted communities aren’t just surviving but thriving. “We deserve to flourish,” said Nixon. “We deserve to rest. It’s what our ancestors always wanted.”
Exonerated! Falsely Accused Black Folks Freed From Prison
1. Herbert Alford
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A Michigan man who spent nearly five years in custody is suing Hertz for failing to produce in a timely manner a receipt that would have proved his innocence long before he was convicted of a 2011 murder. https://t.co/kZaI5tdOv4— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 12, 2021
2. Walter Forbes
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“I don’t hold contempt for the people who lied to convict me ... The reason is selfish: I wasn’t going to allow them to destroy me," said Walter Forbes, freed and exonerated last week after 37 years with the help of @UofMInnocence. https://t.co/WfanIitchU— The Innocence Project (@innocence) December 14, 2020
3. Termaine Joseph Hicks
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An innocent Philadelphia man has been freed after spending 19 years in prison because two police officers wrongly claimed he’d raped a woman and then shot at them, when he’d in fact saved her from a different man .Attorneys for Termaine Joseph Hicks claim cops made up the story . pic.twitter.com/FJp5DQUMoQ— HJ (Hank) Ellison (@hjtherealj) December 18, 2020
4. Clifford Williams, Nathan Myers
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After a combined 86 years incarcerated for a crime they did not commit, Clifford Williams Jr. and his nephew, Nathan Myers, were exonerated and released last week! Mr. Myers was 18 when he was arrested and is now 61. Mr. Williams was 33 and is now 76. https://t.co/EH2qPCspEj— Equal Justice Initiative (@eji_org) April 5, 2019
5. Calvin BrightSource:WUSA9 5 of 15
6. Kevin Baker, Sean Washington
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Kevin Baker and Sean Washington received life terms in 1996 that were overturned on appeal in December https://t.co/MSWoxkwPzi— Courier-Post (@cpsj) February 4, 2020
7. Theophalis Wilson
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Theophalis Wilson was 17-years-old when he was falsely accused of a triple murder in Philadelphia and sentenced to life in prison. Now, 28 years later, he finally has his freedom. He spoke with @KeithJones https://t.co/mVDISp68hy pic.twitter.com/RQ2pEdZBfM— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) January 22, 2020
8. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart
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And they are out: Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart walk out of the Baltimore city courthouse after 36 yrs for a crime they didn’t do: pic.twitter.com/5UDGWMZmOB— Tom Jackman (@TomJackmanWP) November 25, 2019
9. Deandre Charles9 of 15
10. Exonerated Five - Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise10 of 15
11. Anthony Ray Hinton
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Name: Anthony Ray Hinton, who was on Alabama’s Death Row for nearly 30 years for a murder he didn’t commit. In 2018, he wrote about his experience in the NYT bestseller, The Sun Does Shine.— City of Birmingham (@cityofbhamal) October 4, 2019
Occupation: Works in community education with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery pic.twitter.com/EwiaJueimb
12. Lamar Johnson12 of 15
13. Wilbert Jones
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Louisiana man freed from prison after serving 43 years for a crime he did not commit. Wilbert Jones was arrested in 1971 at the age of 19 and convicted of rape in 1974. A judge overturned his conviction weeks ago. He still had to pay $2,000 bail before becoming a free man today. pic.twitter.com/LYV4gbTPOf— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) November 15, 2017
14. Xavier DavisSource:Courtesy of Xavier Davis 14 of 15
15. Huwe Burton
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2,372nd Exon: Huwe Burton was convicted in 1991 for stabbing his mother to death when he was 16. He was exonerated on Jan 24th after an investigation showed that his confession was coerced and that his mother's real killer was likely a downstairs neighbor. https://t.co/TM3f76moQ5 pic.twitter.com/rsU1NlPr2y— Exoneration Registry (@exonerationlist) February 4, 2019
Meet The Young, Black Legislators Fighting To Protect Democracy In Georgia And Florida was originally published on newsone.com