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61 indicted in Georgia on racketeering charges connected to ‘Stop Cop City’ movement

by Sophia Chen
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Racketeering Charges

In Georgia, a significant development has unfolded with the indictment of 61 individuals on racketeering charges, marking the culmination of a lengthy state investigation into protests surrounding the proposed establishment of a police and firefighter training facility in the Atlanta area, referred to by its critics as “Cop City.”

In a sweeping indictment released on August 29, Republican Attorney General Chris Carr has characterized the defendants as “militant anarchists” who allegedly supported a violent movement linked to the widespread 2020 racial justice protests. This indictment represents the latest utilization of the state’s anti-racketeering law, commonly known as a RICO law, following recent charges filed against former President Donald Trump and 18 others by the Fulton County prosecutor.

The “Stop Cop City” movement has persisted for over two years, occasionally involving acts of vandalism and violence. Opponents express concerns that the construction of the training center will contribute to the increased militarization of the police force and exacerbate environmental damage in a predominantly Black, economically disadvantaged area due to its location in an urban forest.

Most of the indicted individuals have previously faced charges related to their alleged involvement in the movement. RICO charges carry substantial potential sentences that can be added to penalties for underlying offenses.

Among the defendants are over three dozen individuals facing domestic terrorism charges connected to violent protests, three leaders of a bail fund previously accused of money laundering, and three activists who faced felony intimidation charges after distributing flyers referring to a state trooper as a “murderer” for their role in a fatal protester shooting.

Attorney General Chris Carr asserted during a news conference that “the 61 defendants together have conspired to prevent the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center by conducting, coordinating, and organizing acts of violence, intimidation, and property destruction.”

Prosecutors have made a wide array of allegations to link the defendants to this alleged conspiracy, including possession of fire accelerants, throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, and reimbursement for supplies like glue and food for activists camping near the construction site for several months.

In response to these charges, activists leading a referendum effort against the project have condemned them as “anti-democratic.” Meanwhile, Republican Governor Brian Kemp has praised the indictment, emphasizing his commitment to ensuring the safety of Georgians, especially in the face of threats from out-of-state radicals.

The protests against the training center escalated following the fatal shooting of protester Manuel Esteban Paez Terán in January. While the Georgia Bureau of Investigation contends that state troopers fired in self-defense, the absence of body camera footage and ongoing activist skepticism has fueled controversy.

Proponents of the facility, including Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, argue that it would replace inadequate training facilities and address recruitment and retention challenges within the police force.

Prosecutors trace the origins of the “Stop Cop City” movement back to May 25, 2020, coinciding with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This movement has persisted, fueled by what prosecutors describe as “violent anti-police sentiment” among some Atlantans, even after the racial justice protests had waned.

Since 2021, numerous instances of violence and vandalism have been linked to the movement. Notably, a police car was set on fire during a January protest, and protesters torched construction equipment in March, leading to domestic terrorism charges against many individuals, although proving their direct involvement has been challenging.

One of those charged with domestic terrorism is Thomas Jurgens, a staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who was arrested despite wearing a recognizable identifier as a legal observer. This arrest raised concerns among human rights organizations and led DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston to withdraw from cases related to the movement, citing disagreements with Attorney General Carr’s approach.

In addition to the 61 racketeering indictments, five defendants face charges of domestic terrorism and first-degree arson, while three leaders of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund are each indicted on 15 counts of money laundering. The case was initially assigned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee but has since been overseen by Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams after McAfee’s recusal due to prior involvement with the prosecutors on the case.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Racketeering Charges

What are the racketeering charges in Georgia related to the ‘Stop Cop City’ protests?

The racketeering charges in Georgia stem from a state investigation into protests against the proposed police and firefighter training facility known as ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta. Sixty-one individuals have been indicted on these charges, which allege a conspiracy involving acts of violence, intimidation, and property destruction.

Who is the Attorney General leading the prosecution?

The prosecution is led by Republican Attorney General Chris Carr.

What is the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement?

The ‘Stop Cop City’ movement opposes the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Critics argue that it could lead to increased police militarization and environmental damage in a predominantly Black, economically disadvantaged area.

What are the charges against the defendants?

The defendants face racketeering charges, with many having already faced charges related to their involvement in the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement. Some also face domestic terrorism charges and other offenses, such as money laundering and felony intimidation.

What has sparked controversy in the case?

Controversy has arisen due to allegations of heavy-handed law enforcement tactics, including the arrest of a legal observer and difficulties in proving the involvement of those charged with domestic terrorism in acts of violence.

What is the background of the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement?

The movement’s origins can be traced back to May 25, 2020, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. While the racial justice protests initially fueled it, prosecutors argue that “violent anti-police sentiment” has remained a driving force among some Atlantans.

What is the significance of these charges?

These charges represent the state’s use of anti-racketeering laws, commonly referred to as RICO laws, in response to protests and movements deemed as conspiracies involving violence and property destruction. The case has sparked debate over civil liberties and law enforcement tactics.

More about Racketeering Charges

  • [Georgia indicts 61 on racketeering charges related to ‘Stop Cop City’ movement](Insert URL)
  • [Attorney General Chris Carr’s statement on the indictment](Insert URL)
  • [‘Stop Cop City’ activists’ response to the charges](Insert URL)
  • [Details on the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center](Insert URL)
  • [Background on the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement](Insert URL)
  • [Controversies surrounding arrests and charges](Insert URL)
  • [Overview of RICO laws and their application](Insert URL)

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