State rep says she was confronted by police after WABE debate, station says it was enforcing protocol
State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta said she was “berated” in the station’s parking lot and confronted by police following a June 8 debate at the station between District 6 candidates Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff.
Cannon, who is black, said a “white, male WABE staff member” called the police on her.
The incident occurred when she tried to speak to Handel after the debate. The station said that it was enforcing the debate rules that there would be no audience Q&A after the debate concluded.
“The actions we took were consistent with what was communicated to the candidates and the audience, and was by no means an effort to suppress the views of Georgia State Representative Cannon,” the station said in an emailed statement.
Cannon said in a Facebook post that when she approached Handel, “I told her great job and that if she is elected, I look forward to working with her. Additionally, that I am a part of the LGBTQ community and her statements on gay marriage and adoption affect many Georgians. Immediately, two APD officers were called on me by a white, male WABE staff member. I was blocked from exiting a door and berated in the parking lot.”
The station said the officers were already present during the debate.
Cannon also spoke to Rewire, which first reported the story, and said the incident is an example of “what happens when marginalized people speak up.”
The website says the WABE staffer questioned Cannon about her “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” motions made at the Handel and Ossoff.
“She affirmed that she did this in reference to the candidates’ positions in regards to the LGBTQ community,” Rewire reported.
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WABE said the debate rules required audience members to remain in the studio until the candidates left. Here is the full statement from WABE:
WABE held a debate with the 6th Congressional District candidates in order to help inform the public about the views and issues that affect their community. It was our agreement with the campaigns that there would not be an audience Q&A after the debate. Based upon this agreement, all audience members were asked to remain in the studio until the candidates had left. WABE also agreed to provide security for the candidates while they were on premises, and for this reason several Atlanta Police Department officers were on site.
We were honoring the security protocols established with the campaigns. WABE staff escorted Secretary Handel from the studio to the front door and asked for assistance from an officer when an audience member (whom we later learned was Representative Cannon) followed rather than remaining in the studio as requested. The actions we took were consistent with what was communicated to the candidates and the audience, and was by no means an effort to suppress the views of Georgia State Representative Cannon.