Converge in Atlanta, Georgia from November 10-13, 2023. #StopCopCity

cross posted from the Atlanta Press Collective

Update: Block Cop City organizers now say the nationwide tour will cover 70 cities.

Just days after members of the clergy and other people of faith chained themselves to construction equipment at the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site, a new group, Block Cop City, announced plans for a mass action on Nov. 13 to halt construction of the facility.

“It is useless to wait,” the landing page of the group’s website reads. “With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. If the city government does not halt construction in order to listen to the people, then we will simply have to do it ourselves: a People’s Stop Work Order.”

The group says it plans to hold a 50-city tour in the runup to the mass action and then a convening in Atlanta beginning Nov. 10 and ending with the mass action at the construction site.

This is not the first mass action called by the multiyear protest movement known as the Stop Cop City Movement. The movement previously called for six separate “Week of Action” events over the last two years, in which national and sometimes international movement supporters joined locals and travelled to the South River Forest in unincorporated DeKalb County just outside of Atlanta for a week of rallies, concerts, teach-ins and food festivals.

And sometimes protests.

The fifth week of action, held in March of this year, came just a month after early construction work began at the training center site and saw the largest gathering of the six. The week began with the “Weelaunee Music Festival,” a two-day event invoking the native Mvskoke name for the South River that runs through the eponymously named forest. On the second day of the festival, a group of between 150-200 individuals departed the concert grounds and walked about a mile to the training center site where some of the crowd torched construction equipment and threw fireworks at a nearby police staging area set up to stop any protesters from entering the construction area.

Law enforcement officers from at least five different agencies responded an hour later by raiding the music festival and arresting dozens of concertgoers. Prosecutors charged 23 people with domestic terrorism, including an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center who was working as a National Lawyers Guild legal observer at the time.

The Stop Cop City Movement is comprised of sometimes loosely affiliated groups and organizations using a variety of tactics in the pursuit of stopping the facility for which the movement is named.

The newest group to the movement, Block Cop City, says November’s action will not engage in the tactic of property destruction and economic sabotage used in March and at other points over the last two years. The group plans instead to engage in a tactic known as “non-violent direct action,” a style of protest commonly affiliated with Civil Rights Movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “This action will employ non-violent tactics,” the group’s FAQ page reads, “not because we accept the state’s false dichotomy of legitimate and illegitimate protest, but rather, because we believe that a commitment to non-violent tactics will best allow us to stick together and overcome the police’s attempt to isolate and divide us.”

If the City needs to see a demonstration of the people’s commitment to this issue, we’re happy to provide one

Kamau Franklin

Non-violent protest against Cop City is not without its risks. On Sept. 5, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr recently unveiled Racketeering (RICO) indictments against 61 individuals allegedly associated with the Stop Cop City Movement. RICO convictions carry up to 20 years in prison in addition to penalties for the felonies alleged to underly the RICO charges.  The attorney general’s office argued that acts done to prevent the construction of the facility fall under the alleged conspiracy. Some of the alleged acts listed as evidence in support of the indictment include one man signing his name “ACAB” – an abbreviation for “all cops are bastards” – and reimbursements for the purchase of glue or food.

Still, for individuals associated with the movement, there are few ways to attempt to halt the facility that do not involve risk. For years, those opposed to the facility tried to engage the traditional political system without much success. Cop City opponents called in dozens of hours of public comment to the Atlanta City Council over the course of Summer 2021. On the day it approved a ground lease to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the construction of the facility, the City Council heard over 17 hours of public comment with an estimated 70% asking council members to vote against the lease. That same day, the Atlanta Police Department arrested a group of individuals protesting Cop City outside then-City Council Member Natalyn Archibong’s house in East Atlanta.

This year, opponents engaged in dozens more hours of public comment against Cop City in June during the run up to a City Council vote to fund construction for the facility. On the day of the vote, some people waited over 15 hours for their chance to speak. Only a small fraction of those who spoke that day voiced their support of the facility. Still, despite the overwhelming opposition to the facility and the recent revelation that the taxpayer price tag of the facility was more than double what city officials first claimed, the City Council voted 11-4 in favor of providing $67 million to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the project.


Activists with the Stop Cop City Movement hold a rally against RICO charges levied
by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr on Sept. 8.


More recently, the Cop City Vote Coalition launched a referendum campaign to add a ballot measure asking Atlanta voters to decide whether to overturn the ordinance authorizing the Atlanta Police Foundation’s lease of the training center site. This too was met with hostility from the city. In July, Mayor Andre Dickens told reporters that the referendum could not succeed “if it’s done honestly.” In legal filings, attorneys for the city have argued that Courts should strike the Georgia law enabling referendums rather than allow residents of neighboring DeKalb County collect signatures on the referendum petition. Then, in August, the city revealed plans to engage in a voter suppression tactic known as signature matching to validate, or invalidate, petition signatures.

On Monday, the Cop City Vote Coalition turned in over 116,000 signatures on the referendum petition to cancel the lease. As they prepared to drop off 16 boxes of signed petitions, City officials informed coalition organizers that the city would receive and store the petitions, but would not begin validating and counting signatures until a lawsuit currently in the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is resolved. The coalition contends that the city can at any point begin to validate the referendum petitions or unilaterally act to put the referendum question on the November ballot.

The 116,000 signatures the referendum coalition gathered represents over 20% of the Atlanta’s total population and is a larger number than the turnout of the last municipal election in 2021.

In August, Kamau Franklin, founder of Community Movement Builders and longtime opponent of Cop City, warned that city official’s failure to adhere to the will of the people would result in opponents taking alternative actions to stop the facility.

“If the City needs to see a demonstration of the people’s commitment to this issue, we’re happy to provide one,” said Franklin.

It is into the milieu that the Block Cop City group announced plans for the November mass action.

“On the morning of November 13,” the group states, “masses of people from across the city and country will gather in the Weelaunee Forest and bring construction to a halt. Together we can Block Cop City.”

Construction work stopped briefly as Cop City protesters enter site

cross-posted from the Atlanta Press Collective

Thursday morning a group of Cop City activists invoked a “people’s stop work order” and chained themselves to equipment at the construction site for the proposed Atlanta Safety Public Training Center, more commonly known as Cop City.

“This is a war happening against protesters,” Ayeola Omolara Kaplan, one of the five activists arrested, said via written statement. “If we don’t stand up for our right to protest now, standing up in the future will be vain. Cop City is in the process of being built, and this can only continue if we allow it.”


Four of the five activists who took part in the direct action at the construction site.
Left to right: Rev. David Dunn, Rev. Jeff Jones, Timothy Sullivan and Ayeola Omalara Kaplan.
Not pictured: Lalita Martin
Credit: The People’s Stop Work Order


Kaplan, a self-described Atlanta based revolutionary artist, was joined by Jeff Jones, a Unitarian Universalist volunteer community minister; Reverend David Dunn, a Unitarian Universalist Minister; Lalita Martin, an Atlanta resident; and Timmy Sullivan, a Georgia resident.

Before departing for the training center site, the five individuals carrying out the direct action were joined by a support group of around 25 other Stop Cop City activists. The group gathered in a circle, prayed, and sang a few refrains of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” to emotionally prepare for the day’s action. The five hopped into a white van and pulled out of the meeting site, followed by a caravan of supporters.

People put their bodies on the line, with the courage to stop this construction

Mary Hooks

When asked about the potential for life-altering felony charges for shutting down the construction site, Jaanaki Radhakrishnan, an organizer with the Student Coalition to Stop Cop City, expressed faith in her fellow activists and concern over the potential police response. “I trust that they have themselves together, that they know what they’re doing,” said Radhakrishnan as the caravan moved toward the construction site. “There’s always that you never know what the State is going to do, but they got it.”

What the State has done so far is throw the extreme charges against those arrested in relation to the Stop Cop City Movement.

Sixty-one individuals alleged to be part of the movement to Stop Cop City were charged in a sweeping Racketeering-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) indictment on Sept. 5, and prosecutors have charged 42 activists under Georgia’s domestic terrorism statute since December 2022. The Georgia Attorney General’s office is prosecuting the RICO and domestic terrorism cases. In May, a joint APD and Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) task force raided the home of three organizers with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund and charged them with charity fraud. Radhakrishnan believes that each of those events only served to undermine the State’s position in the eyes of the public.

“With each passing act of repression the State does, they’re making our case for us,” said Radhakrishnan.


A semi-truck driver honks in support as they by the support rally outside the construction site of the proposed training center
Credit: Matt Scott


Judging by the dozens of individuals driving by – including one MARTA bus driver and several semi-truck drivers – who honked in support of a rally held outside the construction site the word about Cop City is out, and residents are against the facility.

Political theorist and Morehouse College faculty member Andrew J. Douglas took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to express similar sentiments and explain the groundswell of support for the Stop Cop City Movement. “These RICO charges will only build the movement,” Douglas wrote. “In the words of George Jackson, ‘Repression. Do you see the effect it has on the uncommitted? Comrade, repression exposes.’”

Since January, the construction site remained guarded nonstop by the Atlanta Police Department (APD), with typically 30 officers patrolling the grounds and surrounding roadways around the clock. The last time activists entered the site in March, police were chased out and construction equipment was destroyed. APD and other local police agencies responded with a massive police raid of a nearby anti-Cop City music festival that resulted in prosecutors charging 23 individuals with domestic terrorism.


A stop work order posted by the activists outside the Cop City Construction site

Thursday morning, however, no APD officers stood guard at the Constitution Road. entrance to the construction site in unincorporated DeKalb. The five activists exited their van, entered the gate, and successfully chained themselves to a construction excavator for almost an hour. Construction remained shut down until the last activist was taken into custody around 10 a.m.

For their part APD officers did not engage with the support rally outside the construction site, choosing instead to fortify the gated entrance previously unguarded. One of the officers near the gate carried a gas mask and riot control rifle, and a second officer arrived a short time later carrying an assault rifle. The support rally organizers pre-arranged for an individual to be their police liaison and while police did speak to the liaison to request the group move several times, no arrests were made outside the construction site.


Mary Hooks, national field secretary with the Movement for Black Lives and Jaanaki Radhakrishnan, student organizer at the support rally for “The People’s Stop Work Order.”
Credit: Matt Scott

“People put their bodies on the line, with the courage to stop this construction,” said Mary Hooks, national field secretary with the Movement for Black Lives told the media as the support rally ended.

When asked about the potential for domestic terrorism or RICO charges for the five activists who shut down construction Hooks said, “this is dignified and righteous protest. Anytime that somebody puts their bodies on the line for the cause…this was worth the risk.”

“Cancel this lease,” Hooks continued, listing the group’s demands. “Stop this right now. Take this $67 million, and let the people decide how it should be spent.”

Speakers at the support rally explained that the five individuals chose to carry out this direct action to draw increasing attention to the number of people supporting the Stop Cop City Movement and the demand to that the facility not be built.

“We’re here to make sure that message gets heard as widely and as loudly as needs be in order to ensure Cop City will never be built,” said Reverend Jonathan Rogers, a Unitarian Universalist minister and member of the Cop City Clergy Coalition.


Footage from Lalita Martin’s GoPro Camera.
Credit: The People’s Stop Work Order

All five activists were taken into custody by APD and brought to DeKalb County jail. Each activist was charged with criminal trespass and obstructing a law enforcement officer, both misdemeanors. Martin was additionally charged with reckless behavior, also a misdemeanor.

Organizers plan to hold a jail vigil outside the facility Thursday at 8 p.m. for the activists arrested at the construction site. A second Stop Cop City rally in protest of the RICO indictments levied against the movement is planned for 6:00 p.m. Friday outside the office the Georgia Attorney General’s Office in Downtown Atlanta.

ATL: Georgia Attorney General brings RICO indictments against 61 activists

cross-posted from the Atlanta Press Collective

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office filed RICO (racketeering-influenced and corrupt organizations) indictments against 61 individuals alleged to be part of the Stop Cop City Movement.

The indictments were filed Aug. 29, but went unannounced and unnoticed until the Atlanta Community Press Collective broke the story on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, Tuesday morning.

The RICO charges are the latest event in a years long protest movement against the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, dubbed “Cop City” by opponents.

Activists with the Stop Cop City Movement long warned that RICO indictments would be used against the movement. The Atlanta Solidarity Fund issued a press release on Feb. 27 announcing that RICO indictments were forthcoming. The Atlanta Police Foundation, the organization responsible for construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, told its Board of Directors and contractors for the project that it expected indictments against Stop Cop City activists in early February.

“The notion that RICO would be invoked to punish protestors engaged in a widely-supported challenge to a government decision is a giant leap in the wrong direction,” said attorney Don Samuel in February. “Threatening peaceful protestors with a seizure of their money and a twenty-year prison sentence not only mocks the purpose of the statute, it represents an assault on the most important and cherished rights of all American citizens: the right to protest, the right to seek redress of grievances, the right to enlist friends, colleagues, and the community to change government policy because the citizens want change.”

Three organizers with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund who were arrested and charged with charity fraud in May are also included in the indictments. The 109-page indictment filing broadly paints the Solidarity Fund organizers as the center of the RICO conspiracy, blaming the three for every post to website, reimbursing indicted and unindicted alleged co-conspirators for various supplies. In addition to RICO charges, each of the three Solidarity Fund organizers have also been charged with 15 counts of money laundering from transactions dating back to Jan. 12, 2022, for as little as $11.91 for the purchase of glue.

All 43 individuals previously charged with domestic terrorism are listed in the indictment. Other indicted individuals include three who were arrested in April while allegedly passing out flyers with the names of the Georgia State Patrol officers who killed environmental activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Teran in January; five arrested for criminal trespass in the Weelaunee Forest in May 2022; and at least three arrested in Cobb County protesting construction company Brasfield & Gorrie, the general contractors for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center construction project.


From the RICO indictment filing: (148) On or about January 18, 2023, Geoffrey Parsons did sign his name as “ACAB.” This was an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.


Several individuals with no previous arrests associated with the Stop Cop City movement were also included in the RICO indictments.

The indictment contains dozens of allegations for acts ranging from throwing Molotov cocktails to an individual signing their name as “ACAB.” Prosecutors have provided no evidence of these charges in an open court.


From the RICO indictment: (209) One or about March 5, 2023, THOMAS JURGENS did join an organized mob and succeeded in overwhelming the police force, thereby aiding and abetting in the offense of Arson and Domestic Terrorism in an attempt to occupy the DeKalb forest and prevent the building of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. This is an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.


One of the individuals charged in the RICO conspiracy is Thomas Jurgens, who was acting as a legal observer at a music festival March 5. Jurgens was arrested while wearing a bright yellow hat marking him as a legal observer.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, where Jurgens works as a staff attorney, issued a statement after Jurgens’ March arrest, saying, “We are outraged that police officers present at the protest refused to acknowledge Tom’s role as a legal observer and instead chose to arrest him. We are confident that the evidence will demonstrate he was a peaceful legal observer.”

All the RICO charges are dated May 25, 2020, the date George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police Officers. In previous bond hearings for Stop Cop City activists, Deputy Attorney General John Fowler argued that the Stop Cop City movement is directly connected to the George Floyd Uprising that took place over the summer of 2020. The indictment filing alleges that the autonomous zone created by protesters in the wake of the killing of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta Police Department Officer Garrett Rolfe in a Wendy’s parking lot is also connected to the Stop Cop City Movement.

Scott McAfee, the judge originally assigned to the RICO case, recused himself Tuesday. McAfee’s recusal filing stated he had, “regularly collaborated with the Prosecution Division of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office and discussed aspects of the investigation that led to this indictment,” while in his previous role with the Georgia Office of Inspector General (OIG).

According to their website, “the State of Georgia Office of the Inspector General promotes transparency and accountability in state government.” It is unclear why McAfee was collaborating with the Attorney General’s Office while working within the Inspector General’s office.

Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the grand jury used to indict former President Donald Trump and his associates on RICO charges in August was also used to indict the Stop Cop City activists. While Trump’s indictments are being prosecuted by Fulton County District Attorney (DA) Fani Willis, the Fulton DA’s office does not appear to be prosecuting the Stop Cop City RICO cases.

The Fulton RICO cases are not the only cases the Georgia Attorney General’s Office will be prosecuting against Stop Cop City activists. In June, DeKalb County DA Sherry Boston announced that her office was withdrawing from the prosecution of 42 cases related to the Stop Cop City Movement. “It is clear to both myself and the Attorney General that we have fundamentally different prosecution philosophies,” Boston told WABE’s Rose Scott.

Boston stated she did not believe charges would hold up against all the protesters and said her office would “only proceed on cases that I believe I can make beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Cop City Vote Coalition – the organization behind a referendum effort that seeks to cancel the lease for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center at the center of the Stop Cop City Movement — issued a press release condemning the indictments, which they called “authoritarian.”

“The Cop City Vote coalition strongly condemns these anti-democratic charges,” said the press release. “We will not be intimidated by power-hungry strongmen, whether in City Hall or the Attorney General’s office. [Georgia Attorney General] Chris Carr may try to use his prosecutors and power to build his gubernatorial campaign and silence free speech, but his threats will not silence our commitment to standing up for our future, our community, and our city.”

The Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) issued a call for lawyers to represent those facing RICO indictments.

“We are urgently seeking licensed Georgia attorneys available to represent community members and fulfill our mission to protect the right to dissent,” SCHR announced on the X platform.

None of the 61 individuals indicted have been arrested on the new charges as of Tuesday afternoon.

Montgomery County, VA: Two Pipeline Fighters Lock to Another MVP Worksite

cross-posted from Appalachians Against Pipelines.

Early this morning, two pipeline fighters locked themselves to equipment on a Mountain Valley Pipeline worksite in eastern Montgomery County, VA which stopped work for over 5 hours. Nearby, a rally of over 20 people gathered to show support for the protest.

This action came on the anniversary of the start of the Yellow Finch treesits which stopped the destruction of the last stand of trees in the pipeline’s way for over 2 1/2 years! MVP is now over 5 years past their goal in-service date of 2018 and are billions over budget.

One protestor who locked to equipment said: “For me, blocking construction on MVP is joyful militancy. It is feeling the expansive power of disrupting capitalistic extraction and protecting the mountains and waterways that began their formation a billion years ago.

This protester references the book “Joyful Militancy” by Nick Montgomery and Carla Bergman. The book explains, “Joyful militancy, then, is a fierce commitment to emergent forms of life in the cracks of Empire, and the values, responsibilities, and questions that sustain them.”

A banner at the site read: “STOP COP CITY NO MVP.” The phrase “Stop Cop City” is a slogan used by a nationwide movement against the construction of a militarized police training facility, dubbed “Cop City,” on 381 acres of urban forest in southeast Atlanta.

The movement to stop MVP parallels the movement to stop cop city. Both projects have been pushed through by politicians who bow down to corporations against the pleas of their constituents. Both projects inflict violence against local communities and worsen the climate crisis.

Both face police repression… Recently, in an unprecedented abuse of legal intimidation tactics, over 60 people have been indicted in a Georgia court on RICO charges for resisting construction of Cop City. More than 40 of those also face domestic terrorism charges.

After being extracted and arrested today, pipeline fighters face $2000 and $3000 bail. At the rally, 1 person was cited for trespassing after moving to where police instructed & 2 people received traffic violations for stopping briefly in a public road to load/unload passengers.