(UnitedVoice.com) – The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known as “Cop City,” is a proposed 85-acre facility situated in the DeKalb County South River Forest, less than 10 miles southeast of downtown. It’s expected to cost $90 million and would be the largest in the United States. However, it has faced fierce opposition from members of the community. During protests in January, a man was shot and killed by law enforcement officers. Dozens of protesters have now been indicted on racketeering charges, causing even more outrage.
Cop City Indictments
On September 5, Chris Carr, the attorney general of Georgia, announced the indictments of 61 people in Fulton County. The defendants were all charged with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. They reportedly belong to the group Defend the Atlanta Forest. A press release about the indictments described the group as an anti-police organization that doesn’t respect the rule of law or businesses. Several of the defendants will also be charged with first-degree attempted arson, money laundering, and domestic terrorism.
Authorities allege the defendants conspired to stop the city from beginning construction on the police training facility. The AG’s office is accusing them of “conducting, coordinating, and organizing acts of violence” both in the county and other parts of the state.
Carr said the state will not look “the other way when violence occurs.” He explained that people who go to Georgia to set police cars on fire, throw Molotov cocktails at the police, shoot at officers, vandalize private property, and terrorize members of the community will be “aggressively prosecuted.”
The charges stem from multiple protests by Defend the Atlanta Forest. At one event, Manuel Paez Teran allegedly shot a state trooper. Officers responded by opening fire on the suspect, killing him. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) later said bullets taken from the officer shooting matched a gun Teran purchased in 2020. Subsequent protests at the site also led to violence.
Response to Indictments
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement on X (formerly Twitter), saying it was “tracking the situation closely” and calling it “unprecedented and extremely concerning.”
BREAKING: More than five dozen people were reportedly indicted on RICO charges — as well as some on domestic terrorism charges — over the ongoing protests to halt construction of Atlanta’s planned $90M police training center.
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 5, 2023
Attorney Devin Franklin with the Southern Center for Human Rights, the group organizing defense attorneys for those who were indicted, said the attorney general is using the legal system to “target protesters.”
Lauren C. Regan, the executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, claimed the threat to the First Amendment’s right to protest will likely attract “dozens and dozens” of defense attorneys to the state.
Carr responded to criticism during a News Nation interview, saying, “Violence is not protected by the First Amendment.”
Copyright 2023, UnitedVoice.com