Georgia RICO Filing Against 61 Stop Cop City Activists Criminalizes Protest

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The Georgia Attorney General’s office just unsealed charges against 61 people claimed to be involved in a criminal conspiracy as part of the Atlanta “Stop Cop City” movement. This case shows that prosecutors are all too eager to use the sweeping powers conferred on them under Georgia’s recently-established RICO statute. The charges against the defendants include racketeering, domestic terrorism, money laundering, and charity fraud.

Stop Cop City is a series of protests intended to stop construction of a police and fire department training facility on 85 acres which had served as a recreational area near a poor black area. Stop Cop City included a Stop Cop City Vote coalition seeing a referendum to overturn the lease for the planned facilities.

From Rolling Stone:

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office has filed RICO Act violation charges against protesters fighting to stop the construction of the police training facility known as “Cop City” in Atlanta’s South River Forest.

The charges of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations were filed Tuesday, Sept. 5, in Fulton County Superior Court, with 61 people named. In a statement announcing the indictment, the AG’s office alleged that the defendants “have conspired together to prevent the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center by conducting, coordinating, and organizing acts of violence, intimidation, and property destruction” in Georgia and other states.

The RICO charges mark another significant increase in pressure from state officials looking to crack down on those advocating against the the $90 million, 85-acre police training facility. As the Atlanta Community Press Collective — a local group covering the Stop Cop City movement and other autonomous groups — noted on Twitter, many of the people charged with RICO Act violations were previously hit with domestic terrorism charges earlier this year over their opposition to Cop City.

Additionally, money laundering charges have been brought against organizers of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which helps arrested protesters with jail support and legal representation. And capping it all off, the ACPC noted that three people indicted on RICO charges were previously arrested for merely passing out flyers earlier this year.

In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, the Cop City Vote coalition slammed Georgia AG Chris Carr and the RICO charges, calling them “blatantly authoritarian.” They further accused the State of Georgia of trying to “intimidate protestors, legal observers, and bail funds alike, and send the chilling message that any dissent to Cop City will be punished with the full power and violence of the government.”

“The Cop City Vote coalition strongly condemns these anti-democratic charges,” the statement adds. “We will not be intimidated by power-hungry strongmen, whether in City Hall or the Attorney General’s office. Chris Carr may try to use his prosecutors and power to build his gubernatorial campaign and silence free speech, but his threats will not silence our commitment to standing up for our future, our community, and our city.”

A predictably blander overview from Associated Press:

In the sweeping indictment released Tuesday, Republican Attorney General Chris Carr alleged the defendants are “militant anarchists” who supported a violent movement that prosecutors trace to the widespread 2020 racial justice protests.

The Aug. 29 indictment is the latest application of the state’s anti-racketeering law, also known as a RICO law, and comes just weeks after the Fulton County prosecutor used the statute to charge former President Donald Trump and 18 other defendants.

The “Stop Cop City” effort has gone on for more than two years and at times veered into vandalism and violence. Opponents fear the training center will lead to greater militarization of the police, and that its construction in an urban forest will exacerbate environmental damage in a poor, majority-Black area.

Axois adds:

Why it matters: The charges in Fulton County Superior Court are the most serious and wide-ranging legal challenges against the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement.

  • This coincides with activists’ attempts to mount a campaign that aims to force a referendum on the future of the police and fire academies, which they derisively call “Cop City.”

Driving the news: The 109-page indictment follows charges filed in May against three Atlanta residents who operate the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, a charity fund that pays bail and provides legal defense to protesters.

Many press outlets have pointed out that the grand jury for this indictment was the same one that indicted Trump.

You can read the filing here.1 In this blogger’s humble opinion, the language is troubling overheated. There is also a lot of text depicting the activists as anarchists and describing how deplorable anarchists are. The filing also claims the effort was part of the George Floyd protests and asserts that the members threw Molotov cocktails, but other accounts said no evidence of any violent action was presented to the grand jury. However, Daily Mail has some photos of small fires at the site and a video of fireworks being set off at one of the gates that got police to back off out of fear of injury.

The best one-stop shopping on the case comes from the Atlanta Community Press Collective, which is seeking pro-bono representation for the defendants. It notes that the indictment includes a Southern Poverty Law Center employee who was at the protests in the capacity of a legal observer and wearing a jacket that marked him as such.

The Atlanta Community Press Collective also pointed out that the relevant county DA withdrew from the case, signaling that she regarded the state attorney general as engaging in overreach:

In June, DeKalb County DA Sherry Boston announced that her office was withdrawing from the prosecution of 42 cases related to the Stop Cop City Movement. “It is clear to both myself and the Attorney General that we have fundamentally different prosecution philosophies,” Boston told WABE’s Rose Scott.

Boston stated she did not believe charges would hold up against all the protesters and said her office would “only proceed on cases that I believe I can make beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Boston’s departure from the action substantiates the idea that this filing is a prosecutorial abuse. It takes time and money to get out of criminal charges, spurious or not. And defendants’ names are likely to come up in Internet searches, tainting their future employment prospects.

The Atlanta Community Press Collective added:

Three organizers with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund who were arrested and charged with charity fraud in May are also included in the indictments. The 109-page indictment filing broadly paints the Solidarity Fund organizers as the center of the RICO conspiracy, blaming the three for every post to website, reimbursing indicted and unindicted alleged co-conspirators for various supplies. In addition to RICO charges, each of the three Solidarity Fund organizers have also been charged with 15 counts of money laundering from transactions dating back to Jan. 12, 2022, for as little as $11.91 for the purchase of glue.

All 43 individuals previously charged with domestic terrorism are listed in the indictment. Other indicted individuals include three who were arrested in April while allegedly passing out flyers with the names of the Georgia State Patrol officers who killed environmental activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Teran in January; five arrested for criminal trespass in the Weelaunee Forest in May 2022; and at least three arrested in Cobb County protesting construction company Brasfield & Gorrie, the general contractors for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center construction project.

Needless to say, Twitterati are correct to sounding the red alert about this lawsuit:

Not a happy day for what passes for democracy in America.


1 Note I was unable to embed the PDF from the filing, which in my file system showed as only a bit bigger than the maximum upload size permitted by WordPress. I repeatedly tried all sorts of methods to shrink it and the AG’s office looks to have installed some nasty code. When I used compression tools. tried generating a pdf from a print version and went to compress that, or even just tried extracting only the meat of the filing, the file size got much larger. I have never encountered anything remotely like this before. If any reader can succeed in compressing the file to below 1.8 MB (to allow for WordPress eccentricity and a margin of error) and mail it to me at with “Stop Cop” in the headline, I would very much appreciate it and will embed the document.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Tim H, we now can embed the filing.

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  1. ArkansasAngie

    Seems to me … being able to put protesters away for planning protests is pretty darn scary. This hopefully will help folks have a little more empathy and go “Wow, That could happen to me,”

    1. Tom Doak

      I think that’s what they want everyone to think . . . but with a different reaction than the one you implied.

      1. Randall Flagg

        That’s pretty disgusting if that’s all that’s been said by them so far. Used to be they would be ALL over it in a heartbeat but, I don’t think they are the organization they used to be.
        Thanks for this important

        1. John Zelnicker

          Randall – The ACLU most certainly is not the organization it once was.

          It has become politicized and crapified just like most organizations in the US. It’s very sad.

          My father left a bit of money to their foundation and he must be spinning in his grave.

          1. Randall Flagg

            Once again I filed to use the arc tag…
            I don’t have the time at this moment to track it down but I believe it was a few years that 60 Minutes on CBS did an interview with Ira Glasser who was a former executive director of the ACLU. He pretty much stated that the ACLU has long since become a political organization rather than the one that back in the day was pretty much down the middle when dealing with issues of the constitution, overlooking the political affiliations of clients.
            Personally I noticed over the years the ridiculous number of fundraising letter I got from them While Trump was in office. Nothing during the Biden years yet. I’m sure they will start arriving again as we get closer to election day and Trump (or any GOP contender), is doing well.

            How many 2nd amendment cases have they taken on over the years… Sarcasm off

  2. Carolinian

    Since I’ve written several comments on this I don’t know that I need to expand but

    had served as a recreational area near a poor black area

    is wrong as the property was a former Georgia prison farm that city and state officials decided to make into a police and fire training center–in part out of the city’s desire to hire more police following the riots that trashed Buckhead and CNN center area during George Floyd. The claims that this project is being forced on an unwilling community as a whole have always been mere assertions by activists who are often from out of state and who seem to think that a city that is covered up with trees is somehow vitally in need of an “Atlanta Forest” (another invented name like Cop City itself) and resistance similar to the tree spikers and bulldozer disablers of the Northwest. One should note that following those Northwest protests that included attacks on the Vail ski resort eco terrorism laws were passed that are quite draconian. The “criminalization” of this kind of protest–which goes far beyond walking around with signs–is hardly new.

    The black leadership of Atlanta voted in favor of the training center several times and it is now being built. Presumably if the people of Atlanta–as opposed to outfits out of Minnesota–feel passionately about this they can vote them out of office. Yes the charges are extreme, but then “lawfare” is quite the Pandora’s Box.

    1. JBird4049

      >>>Yes the charges are extreme, but then “lawfare” is quite the Pandora’s Box.

      Just how are the protesters responsible for anything regarding lawfare? Even if they were, how does that justify unconstitutional and blatantly abusive legal actions against protesters?

      Please note that such abuse is almost always done against the weakest, most vulnerable people.

      1. Carolinian

        I believe there’s a lot more to this than what you are hearing from publications that act as a mouthpiece for the arrested and present carefully framed accounts. They are militants, not just protestors. When the one from Vermont came before the judge deciding on bail the judge said if you are not terrorists then why the bag of rocks and incendiaries?

        Yes the Georgia repubs are coming down on them with excess but on the other hand if you are going to make war on The Man then what would you expect? Atlanta, and I lived there for many years, is not Portland where you can set the Federal Building on fire and expect to get away with it.

        There is a crime problem in Atlanta and the Buckhead mall where I once shopped is now patrolled with dogs. Or so I’m told. If the police are abusive do you think a training center is going to make any difference? The Israelis have been training US cops for years and allegedly taught the hold that killed George Floyd. To my mind the training center dispute is little more than symbol manipulation–perhaps by both sides.

        1. mrsyk

          Serious question. Did you feel the same way about “tree hugger” protesters that were trying to protect old growth out west back in the day? Do you feel differently now?
          Another one. If you were graduating from high school this year, how do you think you would feel about Cop City? About your prospects in general? Would you be angry? Would you be right to be angry? Would your opinion of the police be different than the one you had back when you were young?

          One last question because I know nothing of politics in Georgia. You mention Georgia republicans coming down on them. Where’s team blue on this? Are they backing the protesters? Because I’m failing to see who gains by manipulating/manufacturing the protests except those who benefit by the backlash against them.

          1. Carolinian

            Being on the opposite coast I didn’t much keep up with what was happening there but the tree sitters and spikers–inspired perhaps by Edward Abbey–accomplished more through the courts as I understand it.

            But just to be clear while I’m comparing the tactics the targets are completely different. The South has second growth forests everywhere, old growth forest almost nowhere. The claim that the prison farm property was some kind of old growth stand was to me a tell that the advocates were making things up. Why are they doing it? Perhaps they themselves graduated from college with low job prospects and decided being an ecowarrior would be cool. It is odd that we had that summer of protests and then Biden was elected and it stopped. Was the BLM movement completely organic or partly something else? I don’t know. But there’s really been little objective coverage of the Atlanta protests so perhaps when the trial starts we’ll find out more.

            1. mrsyk

              Thanks for the reply. To be clear, I used the tree protecter for it’s time in history. So much and so little has changed over time. As for BLM, IIRC there was plenty of predictions around here to the tune of team blue abandoning the cause as soon as election season was over. That certainly has come to pass.
              I must confess that I feel deeply sympathetic towards the young these days. Everything’s crapified. Everyone keeps getting sick. The very future is in question. The government doesn’t seem to care, they’re busy making war bucks. Peaceful protests have no effect, save for a smattering of labor victories via strikes.
              God I need a drink, yet I’m off the sauce for some brand new never experienced before mystery full body skin affliction/autoimmune disorder that itches like the devil. Wonder what caused it. “Tis a mystery!”

        2. JBird4049

          >>>Yes the Georgia repubs are coming down on them with excess but on the other hand if you are going to make war on The Man then what would you expect? Atlanta, and I lived there for many years, is not Portland where you can set the Federal Building on fire and expect to get away with it.

          This is fair. I still have to mention that I have the ending of the Pledge of Allegiance “… with liberty and justice for all.” bouncing around my head. It is one of those messages my subconscious regularly on sending to my conscious self. It can quite distracting. But, yes, the pledge in today’s world feels sanctimonious, even unctuous, perhaps stupid or naïve as well; it is still is what is supposed to be, or far more realistically, it is what to aim for.
          I am quite sure that the prosecutor was one of those many American children forced to recite it daily. Then there are those quaint oaths of office people are supposed to take from dog catcher to president, which he probably took. The prosecutor or even the attorney general is supposed to be serving the public, not the monied, although it is usually the other around.

          Anyways, the indictment looks like what a particularly unhinged John Bircher would write and it is a condemnation more of what they accused of believing as much as what they actually did. Thought crimes. The charges are backed by criminal punishments that are gradually becoming something akin to the Bloody Codes with, not hanging, but with multi-decade imprisonments places akin to hell.

          We are supposed to be living equally under the Rule of Law, and while that claim has often been a very sick joke, it seems to get sicker every year; all the protections and none of the increasingly draconian laws and punishments for the powerful and the connected, those who are the Good People, and not of the protections and all the increasing strict, unforgiving laws and draconian punishments for the Ungood People.

          If what I say is true, and I do believe it is, why should people follow the law as it is more of a cudgel being used on the weak or the inconvenient by the powerful? I mean that I believe in the rule of law, but it does not seem that Attorney General Chris Carr believes in it. Rather, he believes in power or as Thucydides said “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” A bit pretentious of me, but accurate, I think. People seem to want to forget or to acknowledge that the rule of law is for everyone because it is meant to protect and guide everyone in all levels of society. That is what the Rule of Law, or a government of laws, not of men, means.

          Does anyone think that the rule of the gun or of the powerful would be an improvement or that it would not happen once the law becomes fiction? This is a serious question. A question that is increasingly ignored by many including the weak as well as the powerful. They are fools, idiots, or insane. I really do hope that I do not have the chance to say I told you so.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      Granting how annoying, sanctimonious and disingenuous activists can be, that’s still pretty weak tea compared to the conspiracy indictments being used to sic’em, and the juiced and militarized robocops who will be trained in urban warfare at that site. That the “black leadership” of Atlanta supports such a use of public space, given the ample coverage of the “black misleadership class” (to use the term coined by the late Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report) on this and other sites, I’d say that’s weaker, still.

      1. Etrigan

        Sanctimoniousness is not a crime and I hear this preface a lot, almost like an attempt to ward off being associated with icky people doing crunchy things- as if earnestness was a disease of some kind

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          That was my point: the earnestness you refer to can be as I described, and often is, but that’s a minor transgression compared to the often gleeful violence of the State, especially when the “threat” is non-existent.

      2. mrsyk

        I’m pausing at disingenuous. Activists are easily manipulated, I would hazard by way of their emotional attachment to their cause. Disingenuous activists should be relabeled agitators, don’t you think. Annoying and sanctimonious could well describe me from time to time.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          I meant disingenuous in the sense of overstating your strength, significance and reach, and framing the issues in ways that maximize your point of view. In other words, common political behavior, especially among minority factions. My takeaway point in response to Carolinian was that even if everything alleged was true, so what, especially in comparison to the demonstrable state overreach we’re seeing in response. And that does not even begin to get into ithe fiscal issues raised by directing scarce municipal resources to an urban warfare lab.

          And as for Carolinian’s point about the “militant” anarchists (one of whom was murdered by cops) getting what they asked for from the State, ok as far as it goes, which is not very: the potential of decades in jail for some property crimes and (allegedly) stupid behavior portends ill for any kind of political engagement outside of ever-shrinking “free speech zones,” and the schadenfreude of some idiot kids getting what they “deserve” doesn’t make up for that.

    3. J.

      Hi Carolinian,

      You have several errors of fact here.

      The South River Forest was slated to become a park and was being used as one before the BLM protests and the Cop City boondoggle. Here is a planning document from the city of Atlanta in 2020 recommending the creation of the “South River Park”:

      The community as a whole does not want this training facility. Over 100,000 Atlanta voters (out of about 500,000 voters) have signed a petition to force a referendum on cancelling the site lease:

      That is several times as many voters as turned out for the mayoral runoff election.

      There certainly has been some anarchistic activity. However the police failed to catch any of the actual anarchists and have instead charged, among others:
      – Some people with mud on their clothes at a music festival, in a forest, after rain
      – Someone who signed his name “ACAB” when arrested
      – A legal observer
      – Bail fund organizers

      As to the Black city government voting for the training center: the Atlanta city government has been corrupt for many years, as you should know if you are at all familiar with Atlanta. There actually was quite a bit of turnover at City Hall in the last election as voters attempted to vote some crooks out of office. Unfortunately several people who had been against Cop City before election then changed their tune after getting elected.

      Here is an article about “How the Black misleadership class provides cover to Cop City”:

      In short, I think you misunderstand the situation. What is actually going on is that:

      1. Cop City is a big slush fund for no-bid contracts where the taxpayers can be stuck with the bill, which the actual taxpayers do not want, because they would rather have a park and their tax money applied to something useful instead of militarized police trained to kick doors in, but

      2. City of Atlanta would like their grifters-in-chief to be happy with those sweet no-bid taxpayer-backed contracts, so they are trying to menace and propagandize the activists into going away, which leads to Black Democrats helping the state government with

      3. The RICO prosecution, which is because Republican AG Chris Carr wants to be governor and thinks he can wage lawfare with impunity against hippies and anarchists to impress his base.

  3. Richard H Caldwell

    Try exporting the PDF from Acrobat to a Word doc, verifying that it does not contain any non-text objects, and then recreating a PDF from Word. No guarantee, but it could be the PDF is simply corrupted and this might fix it.

  4. Michael Fiorillo

    As for the Cop City and Orange Man grand juries being one and the same, the #McResistance meets MAGA, which it has always secretly needed, and the snake eats its tail. Terribly clarifying events, these…

  5. Meng

    My view is that this is just a ‘false flag’ operation. File another RICO charges so that those RICO charges against Trump are not alone

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