Atlanta District Attorney, Fani Willis—a darling of liberals for indicting Trump—is simultaneously leading a vicious charge against activists in Atlanta protesting to stop the construction of a $90 million playground for police training.
The compound, euphemistically titled the “Atlanta Public Safety Training Center,” is being built in the middle of a public forest in a poor and mostly Black neighborhood. For two years, groups of activists have taken matters into their own hands to try to stop the construction of this complex. Protesters occupying the forest have been met with wanton police violence, including the murder of an activist named Tortuguita, suspiciously not filmed on a body camera.
Not satisfied with the brutal repression by the police, Willis charged 23 activists with “domestic terrorism” in March. After this was publicized, donations flooded in for their legal defense campaign through the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. She responded by drawing up RICO charges against 61 associates of the fund, while also making several additional “domestic terrorism” charges against protestors. Never mind that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was originally intended to combat the Mafia.
The RICO charges activities such as mutual aid efforts and the production of ‘zines as proof of “criminal conspiracy.” Three activists are charged with “money laundering” and “charity fraud” simply for fundraising to cover bail for protestors. The alleged “illegal reimbursements” are for things like gasoline, forest clean-up, tote bags, and yard signs.
The prosecutors and other state officials refer to “outside agitators,” and allege they are faced with an “anti-government, anti-police and anti-corporate extremist organization” that “recognized an opportunity to rally against law enforcement.” This harkens back to the early days of the US labor movement, when unions and other workers’ organizations were considered criminal conspiracies for allegedly extorting the bosses!
The charges mark a significant legal escalation and are a clear and concerted attack on the right to protest. A spokesperson for the liberal ACLU noted concern over the “breathtakingly broad and unprecedented use of state terrorism, anti-racketeering and money laundering laws against protesters,” while a Georgia State University constitutional law scholar noted that the charges “[seem] like an indictment of an ideological disposition as much as identifiable criminal acts.”
We have previously written about the tactics of the Stop Cop City movement, and explained the danger of small groups of activists attempting, or at least enabling, armed confrontations with the police. The tactic of armed forest occupation, even if pursued with the best of intentions by earnest anarchists, is not prudent for this struggle.
Despite the fear mongering of the state, the Stop Cop City movement has been overwhelmingly peaceful. However, without a defined and democratic organization that can decide on a common strategy, individuals are left to decide themselves how to stop Cop City, resulting in an “anything goes” approach to “taking action” on individual whims, which many anarchists actually encourage.
This type of organizing has a long history of being infiltrated by police agents. Undercover agents are known to goad young radicals into taking violent action to provide a pretense for cracking down on the broader movement. When a pliable young activist cannot be found, agents themselves often incite violence anonymously. This is very likely what is happening in the case of these charges. For instance, in the few documented incidents of actual property destruction, such as burning down police cars, the police are clueless as to who did it.
As capitalism is discredited more and more in the eyes of tens of millions of youth, the state is doubling down on repression. In the years since the BLM uprising of 2020, we have seen soaring police budgets passed in city after city, and new facilities like Cop City rising up to train police recruits, in part to prepare to crack down on future social protest movements. These charges set an extremely dangerous legal precedent for the state to hold an entire movement accountable for the actions of a few individuals, some of whom may be police agents. Anyone who knows the history of the Haymarket “Riot” understands this.
Time and again, history shows that a well-disciplined, united, and organized labor movement is the only path to victory in the face of repression. The labor movement needs to be at the forefront of the struggle against these attacks on activists. The activists fighting police terror and environmental destruction in Atlanta have set themselves a worthy cause, but they are isolated. They need the support of the labor movement to stop the repression and win.
- Stop Cop City!
- Drop the Charges!
- An injury to one is an injury to all!