Police arrested dozens of protestors at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday who were urging officials to "count every vote" for gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who alleges that her opponent Republican Brian Kemp has knowingly purged voters from the rolls.
Over 15 people were arrested inside the Capitol, including state Sen. Nikema Williams, who was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice and spent about six hours in jail. One of her white, male colleagues, state Rep. David Dreyer, said he went to the same protest but was not arrested and that she was unfairly treated.
In an interview with Refinery29, Williams said that she showed up at the Capitol for a special session, but when she heard police had slammed a demonstrator to the floor, she rushed over to them and tried to get them to explain what happened. Then, an officer made a command for people to leave the Capitol, which several people including Williams did not obey. "I stood there with my constituents. Clearly I didn't think he was talking to me because I'm a legislator in the State Senate. ... There were other representatives there and they were not arrested," she said.
Williams said she believes she was unlawfully detained, and that she was singled out as a Black female senator. "I've never been through an ordeal quite like this," she said. "I didn't realize this was going to happen when I woke up that morning and played with my 3-year-old. I was told to pee in a cup, take my dress off so I could be strip-searched. This is never something that I imagined would happen to a sitting senator." She said an investigation has been opened and that she hopes to find a resolution.
"I saw I had constituents protesting for their voices to be heard. There are countless Georgians who cast their ballots and still don’t feel like their voices are heard. I’m incredibly proud and will continue to stand with the citizens of Georgia to demand that their votes be counted," she 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
Police also arrested a separate group of 12 Black Lives Matter protesters who were holding balloons in front of the Capitol that spelled out "340,134," the number of voters investigative journalist Greg Palast uncovered as wrongly purged from the rolls.
Kemp, who only recently resigned as Georgia Secretary of State, which let him oversee elections, claims that he has an "insurmountable lead" in the governor's race according to results certified by county election officials. But Abrams has not conceded, and is still fighting for every vote, alleging that Kemp used his position to purge voters in order to sway the election in his favor.
Palast, who has been investigating Kemp for years, said that Kemp canceled the registrations of over half a million Georgians last year, saying they had moved. But after consulting an independent firm, a top expert in address location, Palast found that at least 340,134 of them had remained at their original address. He said Kemp also purged thousands of people who moved within their county.
Several election-related complaints have been filed before multiple federal judges. Palast sued Kemp last month in a federal court.
"We can confirm with absolute certainty that 340,134 voters were purged," Palast told Refinery29. "We have their names and addresses." The saddest case, he added, is that of 92-year-old grandmother Christine Jordan who'd been voting since 1968 and "vanished" from the rolls this year.
Palast said he thinks "there is a good chance" the election is headed to a runoff in December, which Abrams herself has predicted. "There's no question that Stacey Abrams sees herself as a voice for women, as a voice for young people, for new Georgia versus old Georgia. There's no question that women are leading this battle."