Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) has indicted 61 people on racketeering charges following an investigation into protests against a training facility dubbed “Cop City.”
In June, Atlanta’s City Council approved funding to build the so-called “Cop City” training facility, whose official name is Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
The 85-acre training site is set to include classrooms, an amphitheater and spaces where police officers can simulate shootouts and high-speed chases. Firefighters will also be able to receive training there.
The cost of construction is estimated to be at $90 million. A nonprofit organization, the Atlanta Police Foundation, is raising most of the funding.
But protests against Cop City’s construction—some of them violent—had already been going on for months at that point, with opponents saying they fear the training center will lead to greater militarization of the police, and that its construction in an urban forest will aggravate environmental damage in a low-income, majority-Black area.
The violence began after an incident in January at the site, when a 26-year-old environmental activist, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, was shot to death by authorities in the forest where the training center is under construction. A state trooper was also seriously injured in that incident.
In the sweeping indictment released Tuesday, A.G. Carr alleged that the defendants are “militant anarchists” who supported a violent movement going back to 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, statute is much stricter than the federal statute, including that under the state law, a suspect could face a maximum of 20 years in prison for each individual racketeering count if found guilty.
Last month former President Trump and 18 co-defendants were charged with racketeering related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. The “Stop Cop City” indictment charges more than two-thirds as many with racketeering than the election case.
“The 61 defendants together have conspired to prevent the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center by conducting, coordinating and organizing acts of violence, intimidation and property destruction,” Carr said during a news conference Tuesday.
Along with racketeering some of the defendants have been charged with domestic terrorism and/or first-degree arson. Leaders of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, who provided bail money to some arrested protesters, have been charged with money laundering.
An attorney with Southern Poverty Law Center, Thomas Jurgens, is among those indicted. His organization has called the sweeping racketeering case an example of “heavy-handed law enforcement intervention against protesters.”
DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston (D) withdrew from criminal cases related to the “Stop Cop City” movement back in June, citing disagreement with Carr over how to handle matters.
However, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has praised the racketeering indictment, saying in a statement, “My top priority is and always will be keeping Georgians safe, especially against out-of-state radicals that threaten the safety of our citizens and law enforcement.”