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. The full indictment hasn’t been released yet, but it’s expected to be made public today. (The Georgia Attorney General’s Office did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)
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 were 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.
As Rolling Stone reported last year, the Stop Cop City movement is largely being led by a loose band of environmentalists and anarchists under the banner, Defend the Atlanta Forest. Since Cop City was approved in 2021, many protesters have literally camped out in the South River Forest, aiming to disrupt and stop the construction of the facility by any means necessary.
In response, authorities mounted two raids on the protesters, in Dec. 2022 and Jan. 2023, which led to the arrest of dozens of protesters. Many were hit with terrorism charges, even though their arrest records showed they committed no specific crimes other than misdemeanor trespassing. During the Jan. 18 raid, the police also killed a protester, Manuel “Torguguita” Teran. While the Georgia Bureau of Investigation claims Teran shot first, protesters have disputed this claim, noting there’s no body camera footage of, or civilian witnesses to, Teran’s killing.
Following Teran’s death, the Stop Cop City movement took to the streets in Atlanta, prompting Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to issue a state of emergency declaration and call in the Georgia National Guard. Many of those arrested were hit with domestic terrorism charges, a tactic authorities have continued to use to snuff out demonstrations.
Several months later, in March, a legal observer and attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center was among 40 people charged with domestic terrorism during a March protest. In June, a legal challenge was brought against the state’s use of its domestic terrorist statute against protesters, arguing it was a free speech violation.