Listen to this article here

The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights announced on Tuesday it will pay lawyers to represent the 61 people indicted on RICO (racketeering) charges related to protests against a planned public safety training center critics call “Cop City.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr announced the state is charging dozens of ‘Stop Cop City’ protesters with committing organized crime in a move that has been widely criticized as anti-democratic.

According to the indictment, the state claims criminal activity began the day George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. His murder sparked the largest and most diverse nationwide social uprising in U.S. history.

“We are urgently seeking licensed GA attorneys to represent community members and fulfill our mission to protect the right to dissent,” The Southern Center for Human Rights said in a statement posted to X on Tuesday. “The Bridge will compensate retained attorneys. If interested in joining the First Amendment Lawyer Bridge, please contact us at”

Among those indicted are three members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. They’ve been charged with money laundering for helping to raise money to bail out protesters.

“We know these charges will not hold up in court, and we know that they are not intended to: the point is to shut down the social movement currently taking place in Atlanta, and to send a message that anyone advocating for social change could be a target,” The Atlanta Solidarity Fund stated on Tuesday.

Georgia RICO charges label protesters as criminals

Filed on Aug. 29, the indictment uses Georgia’s anti-racketeering law to claim the protesters conspired to participate in a criminal enterprise.

Thousands of Atlanta residents remain opposed to the planned police and fire training center that would uproot 85 acres of greenspace and cost $90M.

The site of the planned public safety training center in Atlanta. (Associated Press)

“The 61 defendants together have conspired to prevent the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center by conducting, coordinating and organizing acts of violence, intimidation and property destruction,” AG Carr said.

Protests over the last two years have been a mix of peaceful and violent. Violence escalated after state troopers killed unarmed Manuel Esteban Paez Terán in January.

Known as Tortuguita, the 26-year-old land defender was nonviolently protesting the destruction of forest land when they were killed by state police. An autopsy of Tortuguita’s body revealed Georgia State Patrol shot them with their hands in the air while likely seated cross-legged.

In March, a group of more than 100 protesters chased police off the construction site and set some equipment ablaze. In response, the state placed domestic terrorism charges on whoever they could find, including a nonviolent lawyer working for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Notably, out of the nearly two dozen people given domestic terrorism charges, only two were from Georgia. The rest were from others states and even France and Canada.

Atlanta residents respond as Human Rights group seeks more lawyers

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens supports the new facility, saying it will deliver a needed upgrade to the city’s public safety infrastructure. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Atlanta residents successfully gathered over 80,000 signatures to bring the fate of the future facility to a vote of the people.

“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,” the Cop City Vote coalition said in a statement.

The case is being overseen by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams. Initial court hearings have not yet been announced.

“Our current priority is to ensure that those indicted are released on bond, especially given the horrendous culture at the Fulton County Jail which has led to nine deaths this year alone,” The Southern Center for Human Rights stated.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply