It is interesting that the scoundrels who happen to be Black know how to deflect from their misdeeds and get undeserved support from their people. The less any solidarity is deserved, the more blatant the effort to use Black trauma as a get out of jail free card. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivered quite a performance during his 1991 confirmation hearings. He defended himself against charges of sexual harassment by referring to his experience as a “hight tech lynching,” and in doing so he immediately won the support of many Black people who should have known better than to give him any credence for any reason whatsoever.
In South Dekalb County, Georgia, the South River forest forms a canopy so lush and life-giving that it is referred to as one of the “four lungs of Atlanta.” This sprawl of green space was known as “Welaunee” by the native Muscogee people, who were forcibly displaced in the 1830’s. Swaths of Welaunee Forest were settled and cleared to make way for a cotton plantation. This history encapsulates the twinned imperatives of the American colonial project: the displacement and genocide of indigenous populations and the stolen labor of enslaved Africans. Today, the Welaunee forest is once again imperiled.
Atlanta, GA — A multi-agency task force raided three homes in Atlanta early Thursday morning as part of an ongoing investigation surrounding resistance to ‘Cop City.’ At around 6:00 a.m., law enforcement agents with the Atlanta Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and FBI carried out search warrants at three separate homes across the city seeking evidence related to a July 2023 arson targeting police motorcycles at an Atlanta police precinct. One 30-year-old Atlanta local, John Mazurek, was arrested and charged with first-degree arson in connection with the 2023 sabotage.
A court case heard in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on December 14, 2023, could have a decisive impact on the legal fight to finally put Cop City on the ballot. If successful, the citizen ballot initiative would put a question to voters about whether to revoke the lease of land to the Atlanta Police Foundation to build the massive militarized police training facility, which has seen grassroots resistance reach a fever pitch this year. In Atlanta, for a citizen ballot initiative to be voted on in a general election, petition gatherers must collect signatures equivalent to 15 percent of active registered Atlanta voters within 60 days.
Starting in April 2021, people in Atlanta, Georgia set out to defend Weelaunee Forest, where politicians and profiteers are attempting to build a police training compound known as Cop City. Over the past two and a half years, this movement has given rise to one of the fiercest struggles in North America. Opponents of Cop City have repeatedly destroyed equipment and forced contractors to withdraw from the construction project, while the authorities have killed one forest defender and pressed outlandish racketeering charges against 61 more, including the members of a legal support collective.
On November 6, I sat in a courtroom in downtown Atlanta as 57 people churned through arraignments on charges tied to a sweeping racketeering case. The case in question is as light on the evidence as it is clear in its aim: to suppress the movement to stop Cop City from being built in an Atlanta-area forest. The arraignment process was the first of what will likely be many surreal days in court as the state attempts a prosecution unprecedented in both size and scope. Being somewhat confused by the inner workings of our Byzantine court system on even the best days, I didn’t know what to expect from a mass arraignment of this many individuals.
When does lawful protest become criminal activity? That question is at issue in Atlanta, where 57 people have been indicted and arraigned on racketeering charges for actions related to their protest against a planned police and firefighter training center that critics call “Cop City.” Racketeering charges typically are reserved for people accused of conspiring toward a criminal goal, such as members of organized crime networks or financiers engaged in insider trading. Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr is attempting to build an argument that seeking to stop construction of the police training facility – through actions that include organizing protests, occupying the construction site and vandalizing police cars and construction equipment – constitutes a “corrupt agreement” or shared criminal goal.
The spoken word poem “There are Flowers Blooming in Antarctica,” shared on TikTok by user Madii.sky.blu, speaks of the modern-day man-made horrors that confront us. It highlights the contradictions of witnessing flowers bloom in Antarctica—a reminder of climate change and impending collapse—amidst governmental apathy along with grim reality of observing genocide in Palestine. The resonating words “there are flowers blooming in Antarctica” echo Palestine’s struggle for liberation, a battle not confined geographically, reverberates globally, its ripples reaching the verdant forests of Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta, GA – On the afternoon of November 11, about 200 community members gathered outside of the Atlanta city hall to demand an end to the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program and an end to the construction of the $90 million police training facility known as Cop City. According to Georgia State University, GILEE is, “a joint project of Georgia State University and local, state, federal, and international law enforcement, and public safety agencies. GILEE’s mission is to enhance law enforcement executive development and international cooperation.” In reality this program allows for the exchange of tactics and weapons between racist police forces in Georgia who occupy and violently attack Black communities and the terrorist Israeli occupation forces who are carrying out a genocide upon the Palestinian people.
National Lawyers Guild Atlanta, NLG International Committee and NLG National hosted a discussion on Monday, September 25: “Understanding the RICO Indictments Against Stop Cop City Activists.” Panelists and moderators were Stanley Cohen, Devin Franklin, Mo Meltzer-Cohen, Don Samuel and Azadeh Shahshahani, and the webinar was hosted by Suzanne Adely, Susi Durán and Sarina Larson.
The Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition in Atlanta submitted more than 116,000 signatures on Monday to put a referendum about the embattled police training complex on the ballot for local voters, but city officials quickly refused to validate the signatures and move the petition along due to an ongoing legal fight over the signature-gathering process. Stop Cop City activists accused Atlanta officials of once again subverting democracy after moving forward with the construction of the 85-acre, $90 million police training complex, despite months of fierce protest and loud community opposition to a facility that activists say would further militarize Atlanta cops.
Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law, modeled on the federal statute designed to attack mob bosses, has been in the news a lot, ever since Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis used Georgia’s law to charge former President Donald Trump and his associates with attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. And with the news has come the inevitable hand-wringing about whether the RICO charges against Trump were a good idea. CNN (8/26/23) published an op-ed questioning whether the indictments were too broad, saying, “Casting a wide net can also raise serious First Amendment issues.”
For the past two years, calls to “stop Cop City” and “defend the Atlanta forest” have shaken the political and corporate establishment of Georgia’s state capital. Although Atlanta City Council has approved a lease and funding for a massive Public Safety Training Center in the city’s Weelaunee Forest, the sustained, popular #StopCopCity movement has effectively halted its construction. In response, local and state government have used a variety of tactics to move things forward — including police raids (which led to the killing of protester Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán), domestic terrorism charges against activists and a highly-controversial “signature verification process” that could undermine a proposed referendum.