Dem Lawmakers Speak Out Against Cop City Arrests

Dozens of individuals have been arrested and face severe charges in connection to a movement to stop a controversial police training facility in Atlanta.
A makeshift memorial for environmental activist Manuel Terán, who was deadly assaulted by law enforcement during a raid to clear the construction site of a police training facility that activists have nicknamed "Cop City" near Atlanta, Georgia on Feb. 6.
A makeshift memorial for environmental activist Manuel Terán, who was deadly assaulted by law enforcement during a raid to clear the construction site of a police training facility that activists have nicknamed "Cop City" near Atlanta, Georgia on Feb. 6.
Cheney Orr/AFP via Getty Images

Several Democrat lawmakers spoke out on the arrests of people connected to the Stop Cop City movement on Sunday, the day before the Atlanta City Council is set to vote on a controversial public safety training facility.

The three arrested individuals, board members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, an organization that supports activists who are arrested, were charged with money laundering and charity fraud. During their arrests on Wednesday, they were faced with helicopters and a SWAT team.

At the time, state Rep. Saira Draper called the arrests “grossly excessive” and said, “weaponizing the powers of the state for political gain is abuse of power.”

Organizers have told HuffPost on multiple occasions over the past few months that the state is using political persecution to intimidate opponents of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known as Cop City. The facility would train law enforcement and firefighters and is set to be at least 85 acres large in the South River Forest.

A diverse movement of organizers and community members have condemned the center for a variety of reasons — including claims that the facility will lead to harm Black and Brown people, that the money would be better spent on community resources, and that the forest is vital land.

Since Wednesday, Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) have spoken out following the board members’ arrests and ahead of a Monday city council meeting.

Warnock said he’s concerned about the arrest of three board members.

“These tactics, coupled with the limited public information provided so far, can have a chilling effect on nonviolent, constitutionally-protected free speech activities those of us in the fight for justice have been engaged in for years,” he wrote.

Warnock argued that the arrests illustrate the fears and concerns that organizers and community members have voiced on the topic of overpolicing and the militarization of police in Georgia.

Ossoff’s statement was much shorter than Warnock’s. He mentioned that there has been an “extremist” minority that has engaged in violence.

“It is imperative that the response of government to the violent few not intimidate or infringe on the Constitutional rights of those engaged in nonviolent protest and civil disobedience,” he wrote.

Both Warnock and Ossoff condemned violent protests, as they have previously in a report by Axios, and maintained that they don’t know all the details related to the investigation of the ASF members.

Mariah Parker, a labor organizer and former Clark County commissioner who uses they/them pronouns, told HuffPost Sunday that statements from Warnock and Ossoff were necessary, but only just a start.

“I do maintain concerns myself that they are not taking this situation seriously enough given that repression of activists has been long-standing and ongoing, that the facility is planned within their constituency, within their geographic constituency and that this is going to impact their constituents,” Parker said. “So I hope that they will take a stronger stance on this issue in the future as what they did today was a good start, but not good enough.”

The commentary extended beyond state lines with Bowman also weighing in on the topic on Sunday from New York.

“What we’re seeing in Atlanta is the suppression of the right to organize and the right to free speech,” Bowman said. “We cannot let this happen.”

None of the lawmakers mentioned the Georgia State Troopers’ killing of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, in January during a peaceful protest in the forest. Terán’s death marked the first time an environmental activist was killed by police in the U.S., according to The Guardian.

Since the start of the movement, over 40 people have been charged with domestic terrorism in relation to the Stop Cop City movement — some of which had attended a music festival. Three more who had been accused of putting out flyers to intimidate an officer were charged with felonies.

The Atlanta City Council is set to vote on funding for the facility on Monday.

“No matter what happens tomorrow, this facility is not going to be built,” Parker told HuffPost. “The people are willing to exhaust every civic avenue that we can come up with in order to make sure that they are heard. And so I feel confident that that is the ultimate result whether or not they approve the funding for the facility tomorrow.”

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