Protesters of Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’ Training Center Indicted on RICO Charges

Dave Williams

Wednesday, September 6th, 2023

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More than five dozen activists have been indicted on racketeering charges for violence associated with attempts to stop the construction of a controversial police training center by the city of Atlanta, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced Tuesday.

The 61 defendants, including 13 from Georgia, are accused of violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the same law being used to prosecute former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

Some of the 61 also face separate charges of domestic terrorism, attempted arson in the first degree, and money laundering.

The indictment cites nine incidents going back to July 2020 in which the defendants allegedly committed violent acts at the construction site of the planned training center in DeKalb County – derided by opponents as Cop City – and other locations, including the state Department of Public Safety headquarters, the offices of the Atlanta Police Foundation, and the home of a state trooper.

Attacks against police officers guarding the site and other first responders resulted in two injuries, according to the indictment, while police vehicles, construction equipment, and buildings were damaged.

In the most highly publicized incident, a young protester was shot and killed and a state trooper was shot and seriously wounded last February during a cleanup operation law enforcement officers conducted to break up a tent encampment at the construction site.

“As this indictment shows, looking the other way when violence occurs is not an option in Georgia,” Carr said in a prepared statement. “If you come to our state and shoot a police officer, throw Molotov cocktails at law enforcement, set fire to police vehicles, damage construction equipment, vandalize private homes and businesses, and terrorize their occupants, you can and will be held accountable.”

The training center’s opponents also have sought to defeat the project by organizing a voter referendum.

A group of opponents, the Cop City Vote coalition, condemned the indictment Tuesday as “blatantly authoritarian.”

“Carr’s actions are part of a retaliatory pattern of prosecutions against organizers nationwide that attack the right to protest and freedom of speech,” the group wrote in a statement issued Tuesday. “We will not be intimidated by power-hungry strongmen, whether in City Hall or the attorney general’s office.”

But Carr said the indictment isn’t about protest or free speech.

“People do have a constitutional right to peacefully protest,” Carr told Capitol Beat Tuesday. “But protesters use words. These are all acts of violence.”

The Atlanta City Council approved $31 million in initial funding for the training center in June after hearing more than 14 hours of public testimony from the project’s opponents.