Race is squarely at the center of Donald Trump’s historic criminal case in Georgia, where he will surrender at a county courthouse next week to be arraigned.
No one will be paying attention to the case more than the Black and brown voters of Fulton County whose ballots Trump allegedly tried to nullify in the 2020 presidential election.
Advocates say Trump’s indictment is a rare moment of accountability by a judicial system that has historically been unfair to Black Americans.
“This is a form of retribution, if you will, for Black voters in Georgia who have always known the truth. We determined the outcome of the 2020 election in favor of President [Joe] Biden,” Kendra Cotton, CEO of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, told theGrio.
The New Georgia Project was founded in 2013 by former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee, Stacey Abrams, to increase the civic participation of the “New Georgia Majority” of Black, Latinx, AAPI, and young Georgians.
A Georgia grand jury this week indicted Trump and 18 other defendants for their alleged roles in trying to change the outcome of the 2020 election. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis accused the defendants of racketeering and supporting a “criminal enterprise.”
Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said that given the deep history of Jim Crow and the suppression of Black voters in Georgia and throughout the South, “What we’re not used to seeing is somebody being held accountable.”
“It’s only fitting that as all this is unfolding that Black folks and Black voters are at the heart of it,” Albright said during a Tuesday press call with activists and joined by U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Ga.
He continued, “It’s Black voters that caused the twice impeached former president to lose his mind and try to find 11,700 votes. That was Black voters that did that and that he was targeting.”
Trump and allies attack Black female prosecutor
The case against Trump and defendants, like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, has racial tentacles for more reasons than one.
Willis, a Black woman, has brought the most ambitious criminal case against Trump (who faces three other criminal indictments in three other jurisdictions) and is being targeted by the former president and his supporters.
Hours after the district attorney announced the criminal indictments, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to attack Willis and her office. “They never went after those that Rigged the Election,” Trump wrote. “They only went after those that fought to find the RIGGERS!”
Trump’s use of the word “Riggers” was quickly interpreted as a racist dog whistle, as he’s been accused of doing several times in the past.
“This is who Donald Trump is…he’s a racist,” said Albright, who noted that the former president has a “particular venom for Black DA’s [and] Black judges.”
The voting rights advocate added, “He hasn’t hidden who he is, so we need not be surprised by it anymore.”
Cotton of the New Georgia Project noted that Trump has also used his social media platform and rallies to spread rumors that Willis had an “affair” with a gang member.
“He’s casting aspersions about her being promiscuous…there’s just no bottom to what former President Trump will say to try to change the subject,” she told theGrio. She added, “DA Willis is undeterred. She’s going to stay the course, and she…is going to go where the facts lead her.”
Svante Myrick, president and CEO of the progressive advocacy group People For the American Way, said it’s “very clear” that throughout Trump’s public life, he has felt “very safe threatening women.”
“It’s very clear that that’s what he’s doing here in Georgia, and it’s unacceptable,” Myrick said during the same Tuesday press call.
The former mayor of Ithaca, New York, cited that women who hold elected office are three and half times more likely to receive death threats than men in public office. For women of color, “it’s even higher.”
Black female poll workers named in Georgia indictment
District Attorney Willis is not the only Black woman in Georgia who has been on the receiving end of Trump’s vitriol. In her indictment, Willis names two Black female poll workers, mother-daughter duo Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who Trump and allies falsely accused of “double-counting” ballots and trying to “infiltrate” voting machines in favor of Biden. Trump’s personal attorney Giuliani, for example, accused Freeman and Moss of “surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine.”
Surveillance video evidence reviewed by state and federal investigators determined that Freeman and Moss did not engage in nefarious activity. However, Freeman and Moss received death threats and “hateful” messages online. During tearful testimony at last year’s committee hearing investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Moss recalled one message that said, “Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”
Moss said she and her mother were forced to quit their jobs and go into hiding in fear for their lives from Trump supporters who, according to The Washington Post, “showed up at the home of her grandmother and tried to push their way in to search for evidence of fraud.”
Cotton slammed Trump for “maligning their character for simply doing their jobs as public servants” and upending their lives. “It’s just a tactic that I think he uses, honestly,” she added.
Congresswoman Williams noted that Moss and Freeman are her constituents. During this week’s press call, Congresswoman Williams said that “it makes me incredibly proud that they showed up that day to do their job, and they’re standing strong.” She added, “But they should not have been subjected to being a target of a sitting president.”
Historical racial context to a potentially televised Trump trial
The Trump trial in Fulton County could be televised for the world to see – something advocates say would be impactful, particularly in a city steeped in the history of the civil rights movement.
“Thinking back to Selma and the march and everything that was happening, it wasn’t until the cameras were in place, the media put a spotlight on it, that the country began to pay attention,” Congresswoman Williams told theGrio. “So we need to make sure that we continue to tell it [and] to televise this so that the country understands what is happening and who’s being held accountable.”
Albright told theGrio, “We may not have a Voting Rights Act” if it were not for the Selma to Montgomery march being captured by cameras. As it relates to the pending Trump trial, which DA Willis asked a judge to be scheduled for March 4, 2024, Albright said seeing the process play out on television could significantly impact those who have been “cynical” about Trump’s “big lie” regarding the outcome of the 2020 election.
“It’s critically important that they have the ability to see this process through,” Albright said. He added, “It makes our job easier to reengage people into this process as voters when we have that type of transparency.”
Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.
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