61 Stop Cop City activists face RICO charges in Georgia indictment

More than 60 people have been indicted in a sweeping RICO case targeting activists who oppose the construction of a multimillion-dollar law enforcement complex in the Atlanta area, a massive escalation of what critics have warned was a campaign of police retaliation to crush protests and criminalize dissent.

An indictment from the office of Democratic Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr was issued in Fulton County on September 5.

It targets 61 people under the state's Corrupt Organizations and Influence Act, a law modeled after the federal anti-racketeering law to dismantle organized crime that has been invoked most recently against Donald Trump and 18 of his co-defendants for allegedly trying to illegal overthrow 2020 presidential election results in the state.

The $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center project has been at the center of “Stop Cop City” protests and sit-ins since it was proposed in 2021 on an area that occupies about 85 acres in a historically and environmentally significant forest area owned by the city of Atlanta. .

Police have arrested dozens of people during protests, including more than 40 people who face charges of “domestic terrorism” and other charges for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails and setting fires at the site.

The protests escalated after the fatal shooting of activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Teran, while police cleared a protest camp in January. Police allege Paez Teran fired at officers, which his family and lawyers have denied. An autopsy released by his family revealed that his hands were raised at the time of the shooting.

Earlier this year, three board members of a non-profit group that provides bail and legal support were charged with money laundering and charity fraud. They are also charged under the latest RICO indictment.

The indictment accuses the protesters of participating in a “criminal enterprise” fueled by anarchist ideas and mutual aid to spread “false” “propaganda” about police brutality to bolster support for plans to stop construction of the facility.

Specifically, the indictment dates the start of this “criminal enterprise” to May 25, 2020, which predates any Stop Cop City activity — but is the date of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, which spurred international racial justice protests and uprisings. against police brutality.

Vote to Stop Cop City — a petition campaign to create a referendum that would let Georgia voters decide the fate of the facility — said the charges “seek to intimidate protesters, legal observers and bail funds.”

The indictment sends a “chilling message that any dissent to Cop City will be punished with the full power and violence of the government,” the group he said in a statement.

This is a developing story