Georgia State Sen. Nikema Williams, the first Black woman elected to lead the state’s Democratic party, was jailed last year for just standing among protesters at the state Capitol. Williams is now taking a stand to prevent the mistreatment of women of color by law enforcement.
She was among more than a dozen arrested during a demonstration on Nov. 13, where protesters demanded every vote be counted in the tight gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp.
“Let her go!” protesters yelled, as police put Williams and several others in zip-tie style handcuffs.
“I was not yelling,” Williams said, in November. “I was not chanting. I stood peacefully next to my constituents because they wanted their voices to be heard, and now I’m being arrested.”
Williams was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice. She spent about six hours at Fulton County Jail.
In response to her experience, she penned an opinion piece published in USA Today on Thursday.
“I was unlawfully arrested at the Georgia Capitol my workplace during a rally against voter suppression almost a week after last year’s election,” Williams writes.
“The police zip-tied my hands behind my back, despite my legal right to be in the Georgia Capitol. My colleague, Rep. David Dreyer, a white man who was standing near me, was not arrested.”
“Georgia law states that legislators ‘shall be free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly’ except for cases of treason, felony or breach of the peace. The thought of getting arrested never crossed my mind. During a peaceful protest, no one should have been arrested.”
“Instead, I was one of 15 people taken into custody, and the only one who was slapped with two criminal charges: one for disrupting the General Assembly (that I am a part of) and another for obstruction.”
The lawmaker candidly states “My mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement is no longer about me, but about what my party can do to better protect women of color.”
Williams said the poor treatment of Black women at the hands of law enforcement is a topic “that gets comparatively little coverage.”
“In 2014, Black women were twice as likely to be imprisoned as white women,” she writes. “That number rises to four times more likely for younger women.”
Williams also pointed out that Black women are consistent Democratic voters who work hard, greatly contributing to the economy and democracy.
“I know that my party has a long way to go,” she writes. “We must work with others to ensure an environment where all Georgians feel like they are a part of the democratic process, and like they have the right to be heard.”