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'It's not about one moment': Stacey Abrams says protests draw parallels to Rodney King riots

'What we're asking for is systemic justice.'

ATLANTA — Former Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Stacey Abrams is weighing in on the protests and unrest seen in Georgia and across the country. Abrams said while the killing of George Floyd may have sparked the outcry, it's not the only reason protests are happening.

"This is not simply about one person and one act. It’s not about one moment. It’s about the fact that the people in the streets protesting are also facing unemployment that will last for a very long time. They are facing eviction. They are facing a deadly disease in a state that refuses to expand access to their healthcare. And they believe legitimately that their lives do not matter," said the founder of Fair Fight Action.

The demonstrations, she said, signal how little has changed for black Americans across the country.

"In 1992 I was a student at Spelman College when the gross decision that... the police officers who on camera beat Rodney King were exonerated," said Abrams.

Four Los Angeles police officers, charged with excessive use of force, were acquitted for the brutal beating of Rodney King. Protests and riots erupted around the country.

"I led a peaceful protest but across the street in the housing development that used to exist in the west end there was violence," said Abrams. "That rage, that discomfort but also that deep sadness that a black man’s life did not matter that’s what we’re seeing today, that’s what we’re feeling today," she said.

RELATED: GBI believes organized groups are responsible for violence in Atlanta protests

Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

"I led a peaceful protest but across the street in the housing development that used to exist in the west end, there was violence," said Abrams. "That rage, that discomfort but also that deep sadness that a black man’s life did not matter that’s what we’re seeing today, that’s what we’re feeling today," she said.

Abrams has watched as anger has boiled over again - certain it will continue if political leaders do not take responsibility and action. 

"What we’re asking for is systemic justice," she said. "We want law enforcement. Law enforcement is critical to a functioning society, but they should not be immune from being held accountable. And the reality is too often the law enforcement officers are given carte blanche to use not only their authority but to do so with impunity."

Abrams says reaching these kinds of changes start with voters. 

"We need to vote not because we get everything we want or deserve but because we will be the victims constantly if we take ourselves out of the process because whether we speak up or not someone is going to speak for us and i’d rather it be my voice than the voice of someone who doesn’t respect my humanity." 

Abrams says a record number 1.5 million Georgians have applied for absentee ballots for the primary next Tuesday. Her organization, Fair Fight is working to encourage each one of those people, regardless of party, to return their ballots. For information on how to get your vote cast and counted, visit GAVBM.com. 

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