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Kick Killer Cops Out of Our Community! Tell MPD To Fire The Gun Recovery Unit!On August 9, 2017, Law for Black Lives–DC members viewed a publicly-posted photograph of seventeen members of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gun Recovery Unit (GRU), including Officer Michael Vaillancourt inside of what appears to be an MPD stationhouse in police-issued uniforms and tactical gear. The GRU officers are proudly posing in front of a disturbing logo threatening the residents of the District of Columbia with violence and murder. District of Columbia (“D.C.”) residents have seen members of the Gun Recovery Unit, prominently displaying this murderous logo on their police uniforms while armed, patrolling the community, stopping and frisking individuals, and effectuating arrests. Some of these same officers have been seen wearing hooded sweatshirts printed with this violent logo inside of the DC Superior Courthouse while waiting to testify in criminal cases. Perhaps nothing makes this logo more abhorrent and repulsive than placing it in its appropriate context: Gun Recovery Unit members have been responsible for the recent shootings of Raphael Briscoe, Darius Jamal Murphy, and Mark George; tragically killing both Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Murphy. According to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Annual Reports, between 2009 and 2015, twenty-nine people have been killed and twenty-eight have been injured by the intentional firearm discharge of an MPD police officer. After police shootings and killings, MPD often demands that the community not rush to judgment. It is unconscionable for the MPD to expect the benefit of the doubt when their officers shoot and kill Black and Brown citizens while boldly wearing a logo reflecting their cavalier attitudes towards police brutality and murder. The disturbing Gun Recovery Unit logo prominently features a skull and crossbones, universally understood to be a symbol of death. Through the center of the skull is a single bullet hole—indicating the individual had been shot in the T-zone, a virtual guarantee of death on the first shot. Directly above the skull and crossbones are not one, but two handguns, with handcuffs on either side of the image. Below the image of the skull is a flag reading “vest up one in the chamber”—an admonition to officers to put on a bulletproof vest and to load their firearm with a bullet in the chamber, ready to shoot civilians. By placing “NSID” (the acronym for the Narcotics and Special Investigations Division of MPD) and the “Gun Recovery Unit” on the graphic, the logo clearly sends the message that the Metropolitan Police Department endorses the message captured in the logo. The use of this logo is part of a broader campaign designed to inflict terror on low-income communities of color. For the longest, community members have voiced their fear of the Gun Recovery Unit and concern with their policing tactics. For many in the community, the Gun Recovery Unit has become synonymous with “jump outs”—a policing tactic involving officers literally jumping out of unmarked vehicles, often with their weapons drawn, to illegally stop individuals without justification. “Jump outs” happen at any time, leaving individuals with no recourse against them. This maligned practice ensures that Black and Brown communities live amidst intimidation and an ever-present threat of violence because, as the community well knows, and these officers proudly announce, the officers are “vest[ed] up, [with] one in the chamber.” This provides corroboration to what communities of color in DC have long experienced—the policing of their community through intimidation and violence leading to the killing of community members at the hands of the police. On behalf of a number of community organizations and community members, Law4BlackLives-DC has formally filed complaints with both the Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Police Complaints regarding this logo and the message it propagates. This logo explicitly associates MPD with threats of death, violence, and the celebration of a climate of police brutality. We are asking concerned community members to let Mayor Bowser know that she must step in to check this culture for the people of Washington D.C. We also ask that the Office of Police Complaints and the Metropolitan Police Department conduct a thorough investigation into all threats of violence and murder by members of MPD against the residents of the District of Columbia. Officers who endorse and flaunt symbols of violence and murder are a threat to public safety. Silence by Mayor Bowser, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Police Complaints is nothing less than a full endorsement of this logo’s murderous message. Further inaction makes the Mayor, MPD, and OPC complicit in the killing of Black and Brown people by the police. Thank you, Law4BlackLives-DC
Tell George Mason To Comply with VA Law & Make Donor Agreements Public!GMU’s largest donor, the Charles Koch Foundation, has entered into grant agreements with other universities and non-profits in exchange for influence over hiring, research and curricular decisions. We believe transparency of George Mason's relations with private donors is of the utmost importance. The agenda of private donors should not take precedence over service to the public. The Charles Koch Foundation and its donors have ties to ALEC, the shadowy right-wing organization responsible for writing model legislation designed to attack Black communities like voter ID and Stand Your Ground laws. They have also contributed to Americans For Prosperity which has undertaken voter suppression efforts designed to attack Black communities' freedom to vote by running disinformation campaigns in states like North Carolina. While doing so they also have funded scholarships to Black organizations which require paternalistic directions stipulating students must study under only professors they approve. As students concerned for the integrity of our university with concern about this pattern of attack and control, we demand to you make your grant and gift agreements with private donors transparent! George Mason University is a public university dedicated to public service and that means we must know what agreements are made with donors that have a clear desire to influence the bounds and rights of the public. That one of the largest university donors has funded organizations that have actively worked to erode the rights of Black people while being shielded from scrutiny by George Mason University is disturbing. We demand transparency!
Tell Congress: Transgender Americans Deserve Protection from Hate CrimesThe National Center for Transgender Equality reports that, according to its figures, between August 2013 to August 2015, around 33 trans women have been killed across the U.S. Investigating that further, the majority of those victims have been women of color, specifically Black women. The NCTE goes on to say that in every case where a perpetrator has been identified, all have been men. According to the NTCE: “Yet, what is clear is that transgender women are killed at a disproportionate rate compared to their overall number in the population (less than one percent). The national homicide rate is 4.7 per 100,000—yet at a little more than halfway through the year, we have seen at least 11 killings among an estimated 350,000 adult trans women, almost all of them among trans women of color, who probably number fewer than 135,000.1 Whether they were killed by a date or a boyfriend, a neighbor or acquaintance, a complete stranger, or by a client while engaged in sex work, their transgender status almost always plays a role in why they are targeted and the brutality directed against them. ”In the United States, as in other Western countries, misogyny is still a huge problem. While this often creates subtle biases that manifest in non-lethal ways, such as fewer education and employment options for women, it also underpins intimate partner violence, rape and violent murders. When we have politicians and even judges who routinely overlook violence and exploitation of women, and treat violating women for the purposes of fighting abortion as a matter of collateral damage, we do not tackle that misogyny but give it room to grow. In addition, there is no escaping that the United States still has a serious problem with race. For trans women, who already face transphobia and the sexualization and objectification of their bodies, racial prejudice can compound the difficulties they face and prevent them from being able to get help when they need it. For example, after the death of Sandra Black in police custody, many women of color voiced their feeling that they wouldn’t feel safe talking to a police officer. Imagine adding that to the fact that trans women have been arrested for simply being trans–under the guise of “manifesting prostitution” among other trumped up charges–and we begin to see a huge gulf opening up between the public and the police who are meant to protect them. When trans people–of whatever gender or race–are assaulted, raped or murdered, they are routinely misgendered by both police and by the press. This means that tracking the numbers of trans people being murdered, and in particular being killed in a bias motivated attack, is incredibly difficult.
Tell police unions: stop defending Trump for encouraging police brutality.When Trump gave a speech encouraging police to brutalize suspects, the crowd of officers laughed and cheered. Police departments and law enforcement officials across the country responded by condemning Trump’s comments. But the Fraternal Order of Police -- the largest police union in the country -- defended Trump. So did the leader of Cleveland’s police union. Dozens of police unions across the country have remained completely silent, while their police chiefs speak out. Only two police unions have said anything that even comes close to disagreeing with Trump’s comments -- and their statements were weak and made excuses for Trump. Police unions have a long history of defending cops who brutalize, kill, and abuse their power. They fight against common sense reforms and any kind of accountability for police. Now, on top of that, they’re sending a dangerous message to the police officers that make up their membership -- that cops should be even more violent than they already are. It threatens the communities that police are sworn to serve and protect, and it puts officers themselves in more danger by further eroding trust in police. By calling them out, we can expose how police unions are cheerleaders and enablers of police brutality, and one of the biggest enemies of police accountability and reform. It’s the first step to reducing their political power, their ability stop the common sense policing reforms we desperately need, and their practice of shielding officers who brutalize, kill, and break the law.
Kick Racist Cops Out of Our Community! Tell MPD To Fire Officer Vincent Altiere!On June 2, 5, and 13, 2017, Officer Vincent Altiere, Badge #4440, of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department, was seen in the DC community and at the DC Superior Court (where he was present to testify in a criminal case), wearing an offensive, racist, and threatening shirt. The shirt displays symbols of police harassment, hate, and death while prominently displaying the symbols and emblems of the Metropolitan Police Department. We're asking that you join us, together we can voice our extreme concern about this offensive shirt and demand that Mayor Bowser's administration, Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Police Complaints take immediate disciplinary action against Officer Altiere and any other Officers who have worn this or similar shirts. Our effort is already having an effect, the Metropolitan Police Department has already stated that they're taking Officer Altiere off the street for the time being. We are also demanding that officials take proactive measures to address a department culture that allowed this type of misconduct to go unchecked. The shirt displays a “sun cross,” replacing the letter “O” of “PowerShift” with a notorious white supremacist symbol adopted by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist hate groups. Immediately below is the image of the Grim Reaper, a personification of death in the form of a hooded skeleton, holding an assault rifle and a Metropolitan Police Department badge. Below, the shirt reads “Let me see that waistband jo,” referring to “jump outs” and the routine practice of demanding to see the waistbands of individuals, who are disproportionately young Black and Brown men, often for no legitimate reason. Given the prominent placement of MPD logos and a badge number, the shirt does not appear to be attributed to Officer Altiere alone, but instead, appears to have been designed for a group of officers associated with the MPD Seventh District. Ninety-five percent of the residents in MPD’s Seventh District are black and too many Seventh District residents have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of the police. It is time for the leadership of this city to acknowledge and address the systemic violation of rights, and threat of violence to Black people here in Washington D.C. White supremacy and insinuated threats of death should never be associated with or tolerated in police departments who are sworn to protect and serve. Such ideologies are dangerous and demonstrate a blatant disregard for Black and Brown life. They are at the root of rampant police abuse and result in the unconstitutional terrorizing of Black and Brown communities and the callous murder of Black and Brown men and women at the hands of the police, both in Washington, DC and across the country. On behalf of a number of community organizations and community members, Law4BlackLives-DC has formally filed complaints with both the Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Police Complaints regarding this shirt and the message it propagates. The shirt stands alone as an affront to the community. It also embraces ongoing patterns of constitutional violations and constitutes a blatant disregard of MPD’s own general orders, including MPD General Orders 110.11, 201.26, 304.10, and 304.15. We are also asking concerned community members to let Mayor Bowser know that she must step in to check this culture for the people of Washington D.C. Such Officers are a threat to public safety and erode public trust in the police. Inaction by the Metropolitan Police Department, Office of Police Complaints, and the Mayor's office would be an endorsement of this shirt’s hateful message and an acceptance of a policing culture infected by racism and violence. We're going to keep pushing until we win substantive change, we won't rest until he is fired and everyone who has taken part in this disgraceful conduct is gone. Thank you, Law4BlackLives-DC
Don't Let Lynne Abraham Become Philly's Interim District AttorneyFormer District Attorney Seth Williams was convicted on multiple charges, and now is in jail awaiting sentencing. But in the months remaining of former District Attorney Seth Williams’ term, thousands of Philadelphians will be arrested by the police, arraigned and tried, and sentenced. This past electoral cycle made clear that Philadelphia’s history of mass incarceration - one made measurably worse by Abraham - is one that the vast majority of voters want to unwind. The Board of Judges, made up of 88 members of Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas, will appoint an interim DA from the 14 candidates that have applied for the position - by the end of the week. One of the applicants is former District Attorney Lynne Abraham. Lynne Abraham not only earned her title of “Deadliest DA,” she was perversely proud of it. While in office, she obtained over 100 death sentences; a disproportionate number of those sentenced to die were Black. Many of her convictions are under question, and as a result of an era of overcharging and heavy sentencing that she helped create, Philadelphia is missing over 30,000 Black men. And Abraham’s office was notorious for prosecuting free speech protest with the heaviest charges. All of the candidates who vied for the Democratic and Republican nominations - and both of the candidates battling in the General election - have pointed to inequities and the need to decarcerate, here in the city with the highest per capita jail population of any big city in the United States. We pushed every candidate to hold themselves to a platform that keeps people in our communities, stops the targeting of kids, immigrants, and Black and Brown people, and promotes the kind of radical transparency on the workings of the DA office that Lynne Abraham fought. Survivors of crime who are looking for a DA’s office to respect their needs, and the thousands of people who will be prosecuted by the DA’s office in the next six months and their families, deserve a leader who will work toward decarceration, not someone with an extensive history of expanding mass incarceration in the poorest big city in America. Judges: please do not appoint Lynne Abraham to the District Attorney’s seat.
Let NYC Dance: Repeal No-Dancing Law to Create Safe Spaces for Black NYers!New York City brands itself as an entertainment capital, but uses a 90-year-old Cabaret (No-Dancing) Law to keep Black New Yorkers out of dancehalls and to retaliate against restaurant and bar owners who welcome Black patrons. Black New Yorkers are already over-policed in public spaces, and with few private spaces to call our own, we are constantly battling for safe spaces. New York City was built on the creative genius of Black folks, but the city council's enforcement of this law effectively demotes Black people to second class citizens. The Cabaret Law bans dancing in venues that do not have licenses, which are nearly impossible to come by. As of 2016, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs reported that of NYC's more than 25,000 bars and restaurants, only 118 had Cabaret Licenses. This means that venue owners that support Black culture and allow us dancing without a permit run the risk of being fined, harassed or shut down. These days, because of the No-Dancing Law, Black New Yorkers have even fewer safe spaces. The result: Black people are painted as perpetual “outsiders,” and that puts us in stiffer competition for space in the rapidly gentrifying boroughs. The No-Dancing Law suggests Black people, who are severely over-policed, have just as little right to occupy private space as they do to public space. It implies that Black people are bad for a business’s image or are a financial burden. It also discourages business owners from welcoming Black patrons and encourages hostile behavior toward Black customers. The 1926 Cabaret (No-Dancing) Law The Cabaret Law was originally enacted in 1926 to crack down on African American jazz clubs and kill a legitimate, money-making culture of the Harlem Renaissance. In the 1990s, former mayor and Trump-supporter Rudy Giuliani used the law to crack down on Black and Latino safe spaces as part of his racist “Quality of Life Campaign.” Giuliani wanted to grow the city’s tourism industry and attract more real estate investors, so he he weaponized these laws against Black communities to make out of towners feel "comfortable" Today, the law is a reminder that the City Council and racist mayoral leadership sabotaged Black New Yorkers’ opportunities to create safe spaces for themselves. The law was bundled with a multitude of racist regulations that have since been repealed (or found unconstitutional). But the core of the Cabaret Law is still on the books, and Mayor de Blasio is still enforcing. We are asking our council members to repeal the Cabaret Law and lift this ban on dancing; furthermore, lift the unspoken ban on Black people in private spaces in New York. We are asking the New York City Council to repeal the Cabaret Law and lift this ban on dancing. It's hard to believe that our city government bans an act of expression as basic and universal as dancing--it sounds like the behavior of a repressive regime and certainly has no place in a city as tolerant, diverse, and respectful of human expression as ours is. That’s why we are asking our government to repeal it immediately. Let's take one more step towards becoming the progressive cultural capital all New Yorkers can believe in.
School District of Philadelphia Ban Suspensions of Our Earliest LearnersAccording to Pennsylvania’s most recent Safe Schools Report, the District suspended 615 Kindergarteners, 1081 first graders, 1779 second graders, 2192 third graders, 2295 fourth graders, and 2260 fifth graders during the 2015-16 school year. Worse, the District disproportionately suspends Black students, even though Black students are not more prone to misbehavior. According to the most recent Civil Rights Data Collection (“CRDC”) published by the U.S. Department of Education, Black students (male and female) in the District are 2.65 times more likely to be suspended at all, and 3.08 times more likely to be suspended multiple times, than their white peers. Last year, the School Reform Commission agreed to stop pushing our youngest learners out of the classroom by banning the suspension of Kindergarten students. Although there has been a dramatic reduction in the suspension of Kindergarten students, problems remain. The District continues to suspend Kindergarten students despite their own discipline policy, and has refused to extend the ban to other early learners. It is evident that this disproportionately affects households that live close to or below the federal poverty rate. Parents in these cases, often employed in low wage hourly positions subject to poor scheduling, non existent sick and personal leave policies, and little to no benefits, forfeit the family's income to care for their child. This creates economic instability and injustice for working parents who are attempting to provide for their families and build wealth, and therefore a cycle of disadvantaging the poor.
Justice For Jocques: Fire Officer Lippert!The officer who killed Jocques Scott Clemmons, Joshua Lippert, is still collecting a pay check from the Metro Nashville Police Department. Lippert was let off from charges after a very questionable investigation by MNPD and the TBI. Nashville's District Attorney, Glenn Funk, decided that the killing was justified. Joshua Lippert has been suspended several times within his five years of being a police officer in Nashville. We have to make sure he is terminated from the Metro Nashville Police Department. He has proven that he is not capable of being a "Nashville Guardian." Our community cannot risk allowing him or any other officer who continues to attack, harass, disrespect, and target black communities to go freely. We cannot allow him to continue to be compensated for killing Jocques and attacking us in the streets.
Honor Richard Collins III and punish hate speech at University of MarylandWe are saddened and frightened by what happened to Richard Collins III when he was visiting our campus at University of Maryland. Collins, was waiting at a bus stop for his uber when a white UMD student and member of “Alt-Reich” a neo-nazi Facebook group, Sean Urbanski, approached him and stabbed him to death. With Trump, and his team of white supremacists in the White House emboldening racists to act upon their hate we sadly are not that surprised by such fatal and racist actions like this. But, when they happen so close to home, on your campus a place where you are supposed to feel safe it is absolutely frightening. We send our condolences to the family of Richard Collins III who was graduating from college, at Bowie State this week. In mourning this hateful murder we are also organizing and asking that the University of Maryland administration take steps to make campus more safe for Black students and less of a safe haven for neo-nazis, and white supremacists like Sean Urbanski Join UMD students as we continue to pressure the administration to expand the consequences for hate speech and make the Code of Student conduct in regard to hate speech less vague. Students in UMD’s Black Student Union, NAACP, Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, Community Roots, Ethiopian-Eritrean Student Association, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Muslim Political Alliance, American Indian Student Union and Pride Alliance have been pressuring the administration to make it clear that hate speech is not welcomed on UMD’s campus. However, the university has not responded to demands for policy changes that would show a commitment to making the campus safer for Black and other minority groups! When consequences for hate speech are not strong it tells students like Sean Urbanski that hate and bigotry is okay! It makes white supremacist students comfortable on campus, validated, and creates space for violent, racist attacks like what happened to Richard Collins III to occur. Unfortunately multiple racially charged events have occurred over the past few years on UMD’s campus and we have voiced our concerns to the administration, but they're being dismissed by the President's office, the Provost's Office and Student Affairs. Due to this the organizations listed above along with other student activists came together to form a group called Protect UMD, but as we can see with the murder of Richard Collins III UMD is not yet the safe campus that we want it to be. While University President Wallace Loh has expressed his condolences and sadness over the murder of Richard Collins III it is not enough! That’s why we are calling on actions! Join us in demanding that UMD take hate speech seriously and punish those students who engage in it under the Code of Student Conduct. Richard Collins III was killed on campus Saturday night because of the color of his skin. If the university continues to be unresponsive to the demands of Black students, and other students of color, and seriously listen to our concerns and grievances we are worried that hateful acts like this could become the norm. President Loh has continuously reinforced an environment that tolerates hate speech by reducing student organizing efforts and instead encouraging more discourse. Not all situations require more discourse, some call for action! It's time for Loh to recognize that. We need a president that supports diversity, acknowledges threats, and implements preventive policies that cultivate a safe and secure environment for all students on campus -- not just white ones. Students at UMD have been organizing for years to change the way the university is run so that Black students, and other students of color, can feel safe on campus. We did not want it to get to this! The university must respond now! Racism is not out of the ordinary for UMD’s campus: - 2007 a noose was found hanging outside the Black cultural center, Nyumburu Cultural Center -In 2014 students protested the university’s police department hyper- militarization which includes a $65,000 armored truck, 50 M16 rifles, two transport vehicles, and 16 12-gauge shotguns. However all of the police weaponry remains. -In 2016 UMD campus police broke up an off-campus party of mostly Black students using excessive force and pepper-spray Racism is a trend at University of Maryland and the administration has allowed it to fester! It allows people like Sean Urbanski to thrive and for Black students on campus, whether visiting or part of the student body, to feel scared and unsafe! Join us in demanding that the UMD administration increase the punishment for students engaging in hate speech and make the student code of conduct in regards to hate speech more explicit. Thank you, University of Maryland's Black Student Union
We Demand REAL Community Oversight of the Oakland Police DepartmentIn Oakland, we know far too well the outcomes of an unchecked police force. From the COINTELPRO attacks of the 1960s, the current Negotiated Settlement Agreement stemming from the Rider's case, and the more recent child rape case of Jasmine Absulin (also known as Celeste Guap), accounts of corruption, scandal, and violence are all too familiar and can have deadly outcomes. These outcomes can occur when elected officials at the highest levels of city government know what's going on but turn a blind eye to police abuse. They ignore the intrinsic criminality of police behavior while calling for more cops to address crime on the street. It is the height of hypocrisy. Measure LL's Police Commission is supposed to address the lack of oversight of the OPD. It is supposed to put civilians in roles to hold the department accountable for misconduct. But how does this occur when the selection panel appointed to choose commissioners has a bias toward violent officers? District 3 City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney’s recent appointment of Sarah Chavez-Yoell to the police commission raises considerable red flags. Chavez-Yoell is the wife of former OPD Lieutenant Mike Yoell, an officer with numerous incidents of violence. His "checkered past" includes excessive force, hitting a teen with a car, sexual harassment and "many other high-profile incidents”. The Anti Police-Terror Project and the Oakland Justice Coalition request your support in demanding that Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney: 1.) Immediately withdraw her appointment of Sarah Chavez-Yoell from the Oakland Police Commission's selection panel due to a conflict of interest. 2.) Select an individual from community who can objectively make decisions based on the needs of community. 3.) Create a community-centered vetting process for the replacement appointee prior to actual selection "Conflicts of interest are the number one thing that can and will tank the credibility of the Oakland Police Commission. That process has begun with the appointments to the Selection Committee." - Cat Brooks
Justice For Olivia Pearson!I have dedicated my life to serving as a leader, an activist, and longtime city commissioner. Now I am being targeted and used as an example to intimidate the Black community in the City of Douglas from building political power and voting. Prosecutor Ian Sansot has decided to make an example of me as a Black woman in order to scare Black people away from the ballot here in Georgia. Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Ian Sansot want to send me to prison for assisting voters during the 2012 Presidential election. I have attended hearings and answered every question asked. I did nothing improper. Despite the lack of evidence I have been charged with two counts of "Improperly Assisting an Elector" and two counts of "False Swearing." The State of Georgia is attacking me because I’m a Black woman unafraid to advocate for our community! The original attempt to send me to prison was unsuccessful when the original case was declared a mistrial on March 29th. Ian Sansot turned around and immediately placed my case back on the trial calendar for June 5, 2017. This relentless assault on my freedom is causing me financial hardship through trial costs. The attack on my character has caused me severe emotional distress and mental anguish. My life is being torn apart simply for doing my civic duty helping Black people exercise their freedom to vote. The State of Georgia has a long history of attacking our voting rights. Now instead of meeting Black voters with dogs, hoses, and lighted crosses they’re using the courts to scare and intimidate us. Since my arrest, people have simply stopped voting in Douglas, Georgia. In Coffee County in 2012 80% of registered Black women voted and 65% of registered Black men. In 2016 only 68% and 53% of registered Black women and men voted. Those who would assist voters in the past, no longer do so. It breaks my heart to see my community suppressed, to personally see that fear has been placed in a lot of people. Democracy as we have known it is diminished in Douglas, this is exactly what Prosecutor Ian Sansot and Secretary Brian Kemp wants happening to the Black communities they’re supposed to serve. We will not be silenced : We have a right to vote. We will not allow our votes to be suppressed. The freedom to vote will not be silently taken in Georgia!