Police in Atlanta arrested three organizers behind a nonprofit group providing bail and legal support for arrested protesters against a multimillion-dollar law enforcement dubbed “Cop City” for months.
According to The Intercept, on Wednesday, officers in riot gear, brandishing assault rifles, raided the home reportedly serving as a hub for organizing activity out of East Atlanta.
The three individuals arrested, Adele Maclean, Marlon Kautz, and Savannah Patterson, are all members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, a nonprofit organization providing “support for people who are arrested at protests or prosecuted for movement involvement’ by providing jail and legal support and accompaniment, bail funds, and helping provide access to representation.” This fund in particular, “pays bail, provides jail support, and refers people who have been arrested to available lawyers.”
Each was charged with one count of charity fraud and money laundering. The organizers risk up to 20 years in prison and fines of tens of thousands of dollars if found guilty of money laundering.
The arrests are being called a brutal crackdown on those protesting the construction of the controversial police training center. Critics of ‘Cop City,’ the 90 million dollar police training facility, say that construction of the facility will militarize a police force that’s more likely to target Atlanta’s Black and brown communities.
Another area of concern is the facility’s location in the South River Forest of DeKalb County, which many environmentalists believe should be preserved to protect the forest and preserve “the ecological health of the area,” which is part of this latest controversy.
The warrants for the arrests of Maclean, Kautz, and Patterson allege that they were “misleading contributors by using funds collected through the State of Georgia registered 501c(3) Network for Strong Communities (NFSC) to fund the actions as part of Defend the Atlanta Forest (DTAF), a group classified by the United States Department of Homeland Security as Domestic Violent Extremists.”
This isn’t the first dispute between police and protestors over Cop City. There have been several arrests and a shooting that left protestor Manual Paez Teran dead after he sustained more than 50 gunshot wounds to his body, including the torso, head, legs, and hands.
As news of these arrests spread, activists across the nation have been up in arms, largely because they say this move sets a dangerous precedent and that there are larger repercussions this could have on other movements.
“These charges are a clear and obvious violation of core constitutional rights to free speech. If police forces in Georgia succeed in their atrocious assault against those engaged in dissent, it will become a model for ramped-up repression by police forces all over the country. The stakes could not be higher,” said Brian Becker, National Director for the ANSWER Coalition.
Atlanta-based labor organizer Mariah Parker added that this could effectively have “really grim implications for what the Atlanta Police Department is trying out and hoping to perfect here in Atlanta to then export across the country with regards to criminalizing the crowdsourcing of funding to help protect people’s right to protest.”
As Bezaleel Jupiter, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Atlanta, aptly voiced, “They are criminalizing the movement by criminalizing a non-violent form of organizing…if you were arrested just for organizing a charity fund, what’s next?”