Atlanta, GA – On May 31, roughly 150 people gathered outside the DeKalb County Jail for a noise demonstration in support of three activists arrested that morning by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Atlanta Police Department. The three Georgian activists – Marlon Kautz, Savannah Patterson and Adele Maclean, who are associated with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund (ASF), were arrested for money laundering and charity fraud, according to a statement made by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) on Twitter.
ASF has been instrumental in raising bail, providing jail support and providing access to representation for arrested protesters since 2017. In the past several months, they have raised bail for individuals charged with domestic terrorism over their protests against the construction of the $90 million police training facility commonly known as Cop City.
In February the ASF, along with Community Movement Builders, released a statement that they expected RICO charges to be levied against Stop Cop City participants. Governor Brian Kemp published a statement shortly after the arrests on May 31, referring to the activists as “criminals who facilitated and encouraged domestic terrorism.” He promised to “track down every member of a criminal organization, from violent foot soldiers to their uncaring leaders.”
In the protracted struggle over the construction of Cop City, the state has continually escalated repression. Forty-two people have been charged with domestic terrorism in connection with protests against the construction of Cop City, and one person (Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, nicknamed Tortuguita) was murdered by a combined task force of GBI, Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State Patrol officers. The arrests made on Wednesday are yet another attempt to discredit and intimidate the movement and designate its supporters as criminal.
“This intervening event is again a distinct attempt to steal back the narrative, to criminalize the movement, to stop people from protesting against Cop City,” said Kamau Franklin, the founder of Community Movement Builders. “We think this is very much an attempt by the state to chill dissent and stop our movement, but we will not let it happen.”
Wednesday’s event at the DeKalb County Jail began with a short press conference held by Kamau Franklin. Shortly afterwards there was a series of speeches from community leaders, including Franklin, and the Reverends Matt Johnson and Keyanna Jones, who spoke about the motivations behind the arrests and the negative societal impact of jails. Various call-and-response chants broke out throughout the speeches: “Stop Cop City,” “Viva, viva, Tortuguita” and “No justice, no peace.” Inmates of the DeKalb County Jail could be seen waving their hands through windows and occasionally heard cheering.
The Stop Cop City movement has, despite the state’s best efforts, remained popular with people in Atlanta. On May 15, the Atlanta city council held a meeting regarding additional funding for Cop City, and more than 300 people attended to protest. For seven hours, those who had been able to sign up to speak, nearly 200 people, provided thoughtful arguments against the construction of the police training facility. In the wake of the revelation last week that Atlanta taxpayers will foot $67 million of the Cop City bill, despite Mayor Andre Dickens’ claim of $30 million, activists are ramping up their outreach efforts and encouraging residents of Atlanta to attend the June 5 meeting of the Atlanta City Council and provide public comment.