Cop City Protest Tear-Gassed as Activists Face ‘Unprecedented’ RICO and Domestic Terrorism Charges

Excerpts from Democracy Now!, Nov. 17, 2023

AMY GOODMAN: Protesters in Atlanta held a week of action to stop the construction of the massive $90 million police training complex known as “Cop City” in the Weelaunee Forest. …

On Monday, police attacked peaceful protesters with tear gas, pepper balls, flashbang grenades as over 400 marched toward the sacred Weelaunee Forest, the proposed site for Cop City. Participants included the parents of the environmental defender Manuel Esteban Terán, known as Tortuguita, who was fatally shot by Georgia state troopers during a raid on the Stop Cop City protest encampment in

This comes as activists have been organizing for a citywide referendum on the project which officials have tied up in court. Meanwhile, 61 people facing RICO, or racketeering, and domestic terrorism charges appeared in court this month as the state tries to characterize them as militant anarchists.
For more, we’re joined by two guests. Sharif Abdel Koud-dous, correspondent for this Al Jazeera Fault Lines report. And Kamau Franklin is joining us, founder of the organization Community Movement Builders, who’s been part of the now two-year movement to stop Cop City…. Kamau, for the latest news of this week, over 60 people in court, many of them charged with domestic terrorism. Can you talk about the significance … and how it affects their whole lives?

KAMAU FRANKLIN: …This issue goes to the heart of the militarization of the police and the criminalization of movements. What we’re witnessing in Atlanta is a rebirth of the COINTELPRO movement to stamp out organizers and activists, to scare people into not speaking up and participating in movements. You have people who came to Atlanta who previously were not involved in any Cop City activity, but who happened to get rounded up by police. And the police looked at IDs. And if they had Georgia IDs, they let them go. If they had out-of-state IDs, they arrested them and charged them with domestic terrorism and later added on the charge of RICO.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the range of opposition? … It’s people who are deeply concerned about police brutality. It’s also religious leaders, Indigenous leaders. Talk about the area where it’s being built.

KAMAU FRANKLIN: Yeah, one of the things about this movement has been, since the very beginning, it’s been vast in its outreach, everything from community organizers like myself, environmentalists, religious leaders, voting rights activists, yes, including anarchists, other people who are community members, who have been engaged in this because they see two things happening.

One … is the continued overpolicing of Black and Brown communities that will be happening if Cop City is built. Two is the attack against movements, which is the very reason why this vast militarized facility is even being proposed….

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: …Well, I think what’s important to note about the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Atlanta forest is its resilience. You know, it’s brought together … a multifaceted resistance movement against this massive planned police training center. And the movement’s lasted well over two years now. It’s still going, despite this massive amount of state repression against it….

There’s a crackdown on even lawful political activities. And lawyers say this is unprecedented, that it’s basically criminalizing political association. The indictment, where 61 people are charged in this wide-ranging racketeering case, the ACLU called the theory in the indictment shocking and
unprecedented. And it basically relies on people’s beliefs and community organizing as the basis for the sweeping criminal liability. And just finally, as we’re talking internationally, too, you know, there’s protests by the Stop Cop City movement in support of Palestine, as well, and against what’s called the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, or GILEE, where law enforcement officers from Atlanta, from across the state and the U.S. travel to Israel to receive training from Israeli police forces. And, you know, Israel has long taken these strategies and techniques that are honed on the Palestinian body and then exported them abroad. And so we see these ties … between Israel and police forces in Atlanta.

[The entire report can be viewed at]

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