Atlanta Protests

A memorial for Black individuals killed at the hands of police violence and in hate crimes lines the fence of Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta during protests on June 5.

ATLANTA — In response to widespread criticism of policing across the nation, Georgia Democrats are pushing a large package of law-enforcement policy changes.

The “Justice for All” package unveiled Thursday includes various agenda items that includes passing hate crimes laws, repealing the citizen’s arrest law and stand-your-ground laws, requiring widespread use of body cameras and banning police use of chokeholds.

“The bills that our House and Senate Democratic caucuses will put forward over the next week and into the next year will help us just start to fix the deep inequalities in our system and end statutes like the citizen's arrest law that put black communities in danger,” State Sen. Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said.

After the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick — a black and unarmed man who was killed by three white men — bipartisan lawmakers and prominent businesses in Georgia have called on the Senate to pass hate crimes legislation that squeaked through the House but has been sitting in Senate committee.

The “vigilante-style” killing also incited a push to do away with the state’s “antiquated” citizen’s arrest and stand-your-ground laws.

“When citizens are in public spaces, they should not be permitted to chase down and murder someone, and then hide behind the justification in defense of stand your ground,” House Minority Leader Rep. Bob Trammell, D-Lutherville, said.

Georgia’s Democratic Caucus won’t stop there and is introducing other items including legislation to end racial profiling by law enforcement and outlaw no-knock search warrants.

But with only 11 days left in session and Crossover Day well passed, lawmakers will need to tack on these new provisions to live bills through amendments.

Trammell said Democrats will push the agenda items “through any means available.”

“It is an ambitious agenda but it is an agenda that is worthy of the moment and worthy of Georgia,” he said. “With respect to where we are, you know, we are in an unprecedented situation with respect to the resumption of the General Assembly, the legislative session being suspended, because of the COVID-19. But what it affords us is an opportunity."

Trammell said with the cries across Georgia and the nation for police reform, the General Assembly should not “hide behind procedural rules as an excuse to delay justice.”

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