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Civil Rights Group: DOJ Must Probe Arrest of Anti-Cop City Bail Fund Organizers

Hundreds arrived to speak before the Atlanta City Council before a vote to approve funding for the Cop City on Monday.

Activists participate in a protest against the proposed Cop City being built in an Atlanta forest on March 09, 2023 in New York City.

A prominent civil rights group is calling for a federal investigation into Georgia police’s arrest of three lead organizers for the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, a bail fund that has helped in protesters’ fight against Cop City, raising deep concerns about the state’s seeming quest to paint protesters against Cop City as “terrorists.”

In a statement released on Friday, Legal Defense Fund (LDF) said that the Department of Justice should open an immediate probe over the arrest and “apparent targeting” of Marlon Scott Kautz, Adele Maclean and Savannah Patterson, members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund board, saying that the state forces involved in the arrest should face scrutiny.

“The actions of Atlanta and Georgia authorities risk intimidating those who oppose the urban warfare training facility widely known as Cop City. We hope the Atlanta Police Foundation, its corporate supporters, and law enforcement officials in Georgia will be subject to the same exacting scrutiny and standards to which the Solidarity Fund is being subjected,” said LDF President Janai S. Nelson.

“The discretionary misuse of law enforcement to surveil, intimidate, and criminalize those who seek to change the status quo has long precedent in the civil rights movement. The recent labeling of environmental activists opposing Cop City as domestic terrorists raises the same alarm,” Nelson continued. “These unsavory practices are a prelude of what law enforcement will be empowered to pursue with even more resources should Cop City come to pass.”

On Wednesday, an Atlanta Police Department SWAT team arrested the bail fund organizers at their home, armed to the teeth with riot gear and guns up as they charged toward the house. The state charged them with money laundering and charity fraud — charges that many pointed out did not fit the extremely hostile way they were arrested.

Anti-Cop City organizers said that the arrests represent a radical escalation of the state’s fight to suppress the movement and likened the move to outright fascism. They pointed out that the state is likely trying to advance its narrative that the Cop City protesters were “terrorists” for protesting a $90 million — or more, considering police officials’ continual lies about the cost — plan to build the largest cop militarization compound in the country.

Kautz, Maclean and Patterson’s first hearing, before a DeKalb County court, confirmed that hunch, organizers said.

The state appeared to be trying to paint the fund as one of the sole sources of money behind the Stop Cop City movement, observed journalist Hannah Riley, even as the judge, the bail fund itself, and even police, in a leaked recording, seemed to agree that the charges against the organizers were made up to fatten the legal record to prepare for more legal battles to come against Stop Cop City.

What the charges did was help rile people up to attend an Atlanta City Council meeting on Monday held to hear public comment and vote on the authorization of the $31 million slated to be contributed by the city to build the project. Hundreds — if not over 1,000people showed up to speak, chanting phrases like “Cop City will never be built” or “viva, viva, Tortuguita,” the person who was shot 57 times by police during a raid of the anti-Cop City camp in January.

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