On Tuesday, Chris Carr, Georgia’s Republican Attorney General, indicted 61 people under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for protesting the “planned police and firefighter training facility in the Atlanta area that critics all ‘Cop City,’” the Associated Press reports.
Carr’s office released a statement, which read in part, “Several of the defendants are also facing separate charges of Domestic Terrorism, Attempted Arson in the First Degree, and Money Laundering. As alleged in the indictment, the defendants are members of Defend the Atlanta Forest, an anarchist, anti-police, and anti-business extremist organization.”
“They are alleged to 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 Fulton County, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and other states,” the statement continued.
Like the federal act, the RICO law in Georgia is similar in that alleged criminal enterprises are the main targets. Former President Donald Trump and 18 other co-defendants have also been charged under the same Georgia RICO law for accusations of interfering with the 2020 election.
The 109 page indictment details a list of crimes, including “criminal trespass, vandalism, throwing objects including Molotov cocktails at police, and posting threats on the internet,” Reuters reports. “Each individual charged in this indictment knowingly joined the conspiracy in an attempt to prevent the training center from being built.”
This is the culmination of an almost year-long campaign. One Defend the Atlanta Forest (DAF) activist who managed to avoid indictment, told Rolling Stone “It feels like for a long time now we’ve been waiting for a ball to drop,” adding “In a way, there’s almost a sense of relief just to know that the state has played their cards now.
The fact that these protestors have been indicted under RICO charges is quite alarming and has the potential to set a dangerous precedent with regard to the right to protest in this country. Attorney Lyra Foster who is representing many of the defendants, said “This is a naked political attempt to criminalize political dissent,”
“Some of the defendants in this case are activists, some are people who just showed up to a protest or a concert. The indictments characterize this loose political movement as some intricate conspiracy going back to the murder of George Floyd,” Foster continued.
On Thursday morning, just two days after the indictments were handed down, five people affiliated with the DAF barged onto the construction site of the proposed police compound and then “chained themselves to a bulldozer,” The Intercept writes.
Arrests ensued. The police department told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, “Those 5 people have been taken into custody and we are working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation regarding charges on these individuals.”
Despite the criminal charges and in spite of the arrests, the protests are still going strong. Movement for Black Lives activist Mary Hooks says “We have tried to get justice in the courts, we have tried to get justice using our politicians, and unfortunately, they have betrayed and failed us…So when our government systems fail, that is when the people must stand up and take action.”