Georgia officials on Wednesday arrested another set of people with ties to the diverse anti-Cop City movement, adding to their list of dozens of people facing serious charges fighting the giant training facility being built in Atlanta.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Atlanta Police Department arrested three members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, an organization that helps rescue arrested activists, GBI it said in a statement on Twitter. Marlon Scott Kautz, Savannah D. Patterson and Adele McLean were charged with money laundering and charity fraud.
The arrests of the three board members are unprecedented, The Intercept reported, quoting Lauren Regan, executive director of the Center for Civil Liberties Defense. The Intercept also called for an “extreme law enforcement crackdown” on activists opposing the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center — or Cop City, as critics call it — and pointed to a SWAT team that raided the house to arrest the board members.
“When three community organizers who help run a bail fund are arrested with an entire SWAT team on apparently bogus financial charges, it’s a signal that not only is it illegal to protest, but it’s also illegal to try to support people who have been criminalized for protesting,” Hannah Riley, a writer and organizer, told HuffPost.
“If bail funds are not safe, what’s next?” she added.
The site is expected to occupy at least 85 acres in a historically and ecologically significant forest owned by the City of Atlanta.
The movement to keep the facility from being completed is persistent and national in scope. People who disapprove of the facility span age groups and identities and are attracted to the movement through various reasons — such as environmental protection or removal.
As the movement continued with numerous protests and events, dozens of people were arrested by law enforcement in Georgia. One protester, Manuel Esteban “Tortugita” Paez Teran, died after being shot by Georgia soldiers nearly 60 times. (Tortugita’s death marks the first time an environmental activist has been killed by police.)
More than 40 people are facing charges of domestic terrorism. And three others who face felony charges ― accused of putting fliers on mailboxes with the name of the officer who shot Paez Teran ― were placed in solitary confinement.
“Most protest offenses are misdemeanors or ordinance violations, such as a traffic ticket,” attorney Lira Foster previously told HuffPost. “We’ve seen a lot of these cases since the George Floyd protests” over the May 2020 police killing in Minneapolis. “People need to understand that the actions of the protesters have not changed; the crimes they are accused of have. This is not escalation in protest, this is suppression of the same First Amendment protected protests as before.
Sens. John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, both Democrats, encouraged activists not to resort to violent protests and rely instead on contacting city officials, according to Axios. But nonviolent opponents of the site have still been arrested and charged, and city officials have reportedly largely ignored hours of public comment.
“As we have said before, we will not rest until we hold accountable every person who funded, organized or participated in this violence and intimidation,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted Wednesday.
Micah Herskind, also an organizer against the training site, previously told HuffPost that “the literal killing of a forest protector and these incredibly severe political persecutions” is spurring.
“I really think it makes people more determined than ever to fight and stop Cop City in the name of Tortugita and free all the political prisoners,” Herskind added.
The Georgia Attorney General’s Office and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, which are prosecuting those arrested, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. The Atlanta Solidarity Fund also did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment for this article.