A protest against "Cop City."

Activists participate in a protest against the proposed Cop City being built in an Atlanta forest on March 9, 2023 in New York City.

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Organizers Condemn 'Anti-Democratic' RICO Charges Against Cop City Protesters

The indictments "send a chilling message that any dissent to Cop City will be punished with the full power and violence of the government."

Organizers with the Stop Cop City movement in Atlanta said Tuesday that new organized crime and racketeering charges against more than 60 campaigners were aimed at quashing all dissent against the construction of a $90 million police training facility in the city, as well as similar law enforcement projects.

Georgia's Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, announced that a grand jury indicted 61 protesters under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, with some accused only of distributing fliers.

"These charges, like the previous repressive prosecutions by the State of Georgia, seek to intimidate protesters, 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," organizers with the Cop City Vote Coalition (CCVC) toldThe Appeal. "The Cop City Vote Coalition strongly condemns these anti-democratic charges."

The indictments are the latest escalation by the state against movement to "Stop Cop City," as opponents have called the proposed 85-acre Public Safety Training Center planned in the Weelaunee Forest in DeKalb County.

Forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, known as Tortuguita, was shot and killed by police earlier this year while trying to stop the clearing of the area, and prosecutors in DeKalb County and Fulton County filed domestic terrorism charges against 42 people who have protested the training center. Many of those charged were also listed in Tuesday's indictments.

As Common Dreamsreported in May, the Georgia and Atlanta police also arrested three organizers of a bail fund supporting protesters, accusing them of money laundering and charity fraud. The organizers are also among those facing RICO charges.

The New Republic noted that the date listed on the indictments is May 25, 2020—the day George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, marking the beginning of a nationwide uprising against police violence. The date suggests "that the attorney general's office plans to link the Stop Cop City movement with the larger protests that followed Floyd's death," wrote Edith Olmsted at the outlet.

The RICO charges, said racial justice group Color of Change, represent "a blatant attempt to silence democratic protest—and a dangerous violation of the constitutional right to protest."

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