Ack Arias, a 47-year-old photographer arrived at a Cummings, Georgia voting poll donned in his “Black Lives Matter” shirt to cast his vote in this year’s high-stakes election. Living as a liberal in a county that is majority red, Arias said he wasn’t trying to cause any problems, but decided to wear his BLM shirt when he went to vote.
According to the Washington Post, after arriving at the polls, he was told by an election worker that if he planned on voting he would have to remove his shirt—which was said to be a message that relayed activism—to do so. Arias began to film the encounter, as he gave push-back about his supposedly prohibited shirt.
He was later escorted by an election manager who allowed him to eventually cast his vote inside the location.
This incident apparently isn’t uncommon. In the state of Tennessee, Shelby County election officials had to give a poll worker the ax for getting in the way of early voters who also wore T-shirts and masks that represented the advocacy group, Black Lives Matter.
“This is a pattern that we need to be mindful of at a moment that marks an unprecedented movement for racial justice — but it is a movement for justice and not a political position,” Kristen Clarke, the president of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the Post.
Each state is governed under its own set of rules when it comes to electioneering. While engagement in activities that show support to a particular candidate or party is widely prohibited among polls, it differs by the state when it comes down to what voters can say, wear, or display while voting, the Post reports.
As for the locations where these incidents took place, election officials of both counties say it had been previously mentioned that racial justice slogans were in the scope of plans with the goal of counteracting the risk of voter intimidation or suppression.
Thankfully Arias documented exchange proves what voter rights groups are fighting against. It also will show people—specifically in the state of Georgia that they can’t be turned away from the polls for their freedom of expression.
“I’m against electioneering. I support the fact you can’t take pictures or video inside the election place — that’s fine,” Arias said. “What upsets me about this whole ordeal is that I was not breaking any rule or law or regulation, and yet I was still told I could not vote.” And he furthered pointed out, that if poll workers are looking at the BLM message a political one, they are sadly mistaken, “People’s lives are not political,” he added.
He also said he was impressed by the election manager who was kind and patient with him and was pleased that it was resolved.
As for the unidentified Tennessee poll worker—well Suzanne Thompson, election commission spokeswoman for Shelby County told the news outlet that due to his own belief that the BLM and “I can’t breathe” slogans were “political statements” related to the Democratic Party, he turned voters away. He wasn’t fired until he gave push back on the reminders that racial slogans were permissible.
“Our voters are not going to be intimidated. We’re doing everything we can so that every voter in Shelby County can exercise their right,” Thompson said. And since BLM was not created by a political party, its acceptable among the polls, however, “Make America Great Again” which is directly linked to Donald Trump and his Republican affiliation, it is not allowed.
Get Your Votes in America!