George on Georgia – The Monty Python Insurrection
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Last week, before the attempted coup, I asked for the president to be arrested. Today, as the National Guard and Atlanta Police gear up for madness at the Capitol, I’m thinking about people closer to home.
It’s easy to dismiss morons in expensive tactical gear waving around faux military hardware and gallivanting like Michael Palin and John Cleese in a Monty Python sketch while everything is relatively fine. Things are not fine, today. It’s becoming clearer in the wake of the attempted coup that some of the activity might have been coordinated with political leaders. We should take the threats seriously. And we have the legal tools to do so.
For one: militias – aside from service in the National Guard – are illegal in Georgia.
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It’s black-letter law. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-151 states that it is illegal to “[t]each, train, or demonstrate to any other person the use, application, or making of any illegal firearm, dangerous weapon, explosive, or incendiary device capable of causing injury or death to persons either directly or through a writing or over or through a computer or computer network if the person teaching, training, or demonstrating knows, has reason to know, or intends that such . . . will be unlawfully employed for use in or in furtherance of a civil disorder, riot, or insurrection.”
It is also illegal to assemble “with one or more persons for the purpose of being taught, trained, or instructed in the use of any illegal firearm, dangerous weapon, explosive, or incendiary device capable of causing injury or death to persons,” knowing, having reason to know, or intending that “such teaching, training, or instruction will be unlawfully employed for use in or in furtherance of a civil disorder, riot, or insurrection.”
It is a misdemeanor under Ga. Code Ann. § 38-2-277 for any “body of men other than the organized militia, components of the armed forces of the United States, and bodies of the police and state constabulary” to “associate themselves together as a military unit or parade or demonstrate in public with firearms.”
And yet, time and again, so-called militias have demonstrated at the Georgia capitol. On Dec. 12, armed protesters assembled as the III% Georgia Security Force surrounded the Georgia capitol. Later that day, it’s alleged they confronted anti-fascist activists in a parking lot near Georgia State University and beat them. On camera. Then Christopher “General BloodAgent” Hill boasted about the alleged attack in a YouTube video that has since been removed for violating the platform’s terms of service. To read the WABE story about this incident, click here.
Hill has since told WABE the video was an exaggeration and denies personally assaulting or threatening anyone.
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A few days later, Hill posted another video. “Hey guys, I’m calling for a rally in Woodruff Park every Saturday from now until forever,” he said. “F**k antifa.”
Activists concluded that the “antifa” in question must be Food Not Bombs, which distributes meals to people experiencing homelessness in that park on Saturdays. Consequently, dozens of people from two paramilitary groups on the left – which would probably also be considered militias – have been present during Food Not Bombs’ meals. I note in passing that Food Not Bombs work is 1st Amendment-protected activity, covered by a ruling made by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a courtroom about 600 feet north and 100 feet west of their soup kettles.
Hill’s goon squad has yet to make an appearance in Woodruff Park, but the presence of other riflemen in the park has unnerved some people who live downtown. The potential for extraordinarily violent confrontations is part of the reason the anti-militia law exists in the first place.
The far-right appears ready to target Atlanta’s homeless community. A few weeks ago, Project Veritas – a “media” organization led by a known fabulist – released yet another choppily-edited video purporting to “expose” how people without homes had been registered in the thousands at Central Presbyterian downtown. Homeless people can register to vote from a sidewalk where they sleep, if they so choose: housing is not a prerequisite for the franchise. But you can’t get mail at the corner of Peachtree and Pine, and an inability to respond to mail can get people kicked off the voter roll. The church has mail drop boxes. Nothing about this is new, illegal or especially controversial. Again, a long chain of court cases endorses this practice.
But Central Presbyterian is across the street from the Georgia capitol. And armed insurrectionists appear ready to descend on the capitol in days. I worry about terrorists choosing a soft target nearby.
Black Lives Matter Atlanta – the real one – started a fundraiser yesterday to help get people on the street out of the way of this impending disaster.
But the new district attorney of Fulton County, Fani Willis, can do better than that. I’ve referred the existing evidence to her staff. If you’re wondering what you can do right now as democracy stands on the precipice, send her office an email or call the DA at (404) 612-4981, and ask her to enforce the militia law.
The Atlanta Police Department can put an end to these threats like the cops at the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. All they require is the legal will.
– George Chidi is a political columnist and public policy advocate. He also writes for The Intercept.
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