State Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) and 16 other participants protesting voter suppression at the state capitol were arrested Tuesday afternoon by capitol police.
Williams, about to begin her first full term in the State Senate, jumped in to a crowd of protest leaders as police moved in to arrest them, a witness said. “They targeted all the leaders. You could hear them over the radios,” the observer — who is not authorized to speak on behalf of her organization — said. “Police were definitely ready for it. They brought a lot of zip bands. You could see them on the officers.”
Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners on New Ground and a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, was among the 17 arrested. More than 100 people are protesting at the capitol.
Police told people they would arrest anyone for chanting, but neither Hooks nor Williams were chanting, the witness said. Livestream video on Facebook captured the moment of the arrest as police dove into the crowd, looking for protest leaders.
Oddly enough, I was at the capitol about two hours before these arrests. I had hoped to convince Williams to join me at the annual dinner and auction for the Gateway Center, a homeless shelter downtown, in her district. She politely declined. “It’s too late for me to get a babysitter,” she said.
Article III, Section 4, Paragraph IX of the Georgia Constitution, on the privilege of members, says “the members of both houses shall be free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly, or committee meetings thereof, and in going thereto or returning therefrom, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace. No member shall be liable to answer in any other place for anything spoken in either house or in any committee meeting of either house.”
While Williams appears to be in a police SUV outside the capitol, as I write this, other protesters are going to be processed at Fulton County jail.
Protesters have established a bail fund.