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Stop Cop City protesters accused of domestic terrorism will be jailed without bond following police raid

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Stop Cop City protesters accused of domestic terrorism will be jailed without bond following police raid

Activists opposing the construction of “Cop City” at the Old Atlanta Prison Farm have occupied the site and neighboring Intrenchment Creek Park, the subject of a controversial 2021 40-acre land swap between DeKalb County and Blackhall Studios. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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DeKalb County, GA — The five people arrested on Dec. 13 at the site of the future police training center will be jailed without bond, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office announced.

The five, who are accused of domestic terrorism, had their first appearance hearings this morning.

“These cases stem from violent acts and trespassing at the planned site of a new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in unincorporated DeKalb,” the District Attorney’s Office announced. “During the court proceeding, the defendants were advised of the charges against them. At this time, each Defendant will remain jailed without a bond.”

Numerous law enforcement agencies descended upon DeKalb County’s South River Forest on Dec. 13 to uproot activists working to stop the development —  dubbed “Cop City” by activists — from moving forward. Police arrested five people and charged them with domestic terrorism.

“I strongly believe in the right to peacefully protest for what one believes is right and just,” District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a press release. “However, I draw the line at violence, destruction of property, and threatening and causing harm to others. My office will always stand up to protect the citizens of DeKalb County. The alleged acts of violence at the training facility site put the public in grave danger, and will not be tolerated.”

The GBI said after officers cleared the area, including makeshift treehouses, they discovered explosive devices, gasoline, and road flares. In addition to the GBI, other agencies involved in the raid included the Atlanta Police Department, FBI, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, the DeKalb County Police Department, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, the Georgia State Patrol, and the Department of Natural Resources.

A group identifying itself as Defend the Forest announced Thursday that they will hold a rally supporting the five defendants at Brownwood Park in East Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022 at 4 p.m.

“The usage of terrorist enhancement laws against protestors is a calculated political maneuver to silence widespread opposition to the Cop City project,” the Defend the Forest press release says. “The GBI knows that these charges will not hold up in court, and they are not intended to: the point is to raise the stakes of protesting.”

Below are the full press releases from Sherry Boston’s office and Defend the Forest:

DeKalb District Attorney: FIVE CHARGED WITH DOMESTIC TERRORISM AT PLANNED PUBLIC SAFETY TRAINING SITE WILL REMAIN IN CUSTODY WITHOUT BOND

Today, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office handled the First Appearance Hearings for five individuals charged with Domestic Terrorism and other related offenses. These cases stem from violent acts and trespassing at the planned site of a new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in unincorporated DeKalb. During the court proceeding, the Defendants were advised of the charges against them. At this time, each Defendant will remain jailed without a bond.

The charges are the result of a joint operation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, DeKalb County Police Department, Atlanta Police Department, and several additional law enforcement agencies on Tuesday. Barricades were illegally constructed and placed at the location, blocking entrances to the site. During an attempt to remove these barricades, DeKalb County Firefighters, Atlanta Police Department officers and a patrol car were attacked with rocks and incendiary weapons.

“I strongly believe in the right to peacefully protest for what one believes is right and just,” said District Attorney Sherry Boston. “However, I draw the line at violence, destruction of property, and threatening and causing harm to others. My office will always stand up to protect the citizens of DeKalb County. The alleged acts of violence at the training facility site put the public in grave danger, and will not be tolerated.”

The following individuals arrested on Tuesday will remain in custody:

Francis Carroll, age 22, of Maine

Charges: Domestic Terrorism, Aggravated Assault, Interference with Government Property, and Criminal Trespass

Nicholas D. Olson, age 25, of Nebraska

Charges: Domestic Terrorism, Aggravated Assault, and Interference with Government Property

Serena Hertel, age 25, of California

Charges: Domestic Terrorism, Aggravated Assault, and Criminal Trespass

Leonard Vioselle, age 20, of Macon, GA

Charges: Domestic Terrorism and Criminal Trespass

Arieon Robinson, age 22, of Wisconsin

Charges: Domestic Terrorism and Criminal Trespass

The investigation of the incident on Tuesday, as well as the series of violent criminal acts that have occurred at the site is ongoing. Criminal activity in protest of the training center has included property destruction, arson, and attacks against contractors and public safety officials approaching the site.

Once the investigation is complete, the cases will be turned over to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office who will jointly prosecute the case.

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Defend the Forest: This is why we protest

On the morning of Tuesday, December 13, 2022, the Atlanta Police Department, Dekalb County Police, and the Georgia Beaureau of Investigations surrounded the treehouses where protestors have taken up residence in the fight against Cop City. Reports from tree-sitters state they were shot with pepperballs and tear gas for up to five hours by police from the forest floor. This increasing use of chemical and crowd control weapons against civil disobedience is a primary reason Atlanta residents are opposed to the Cop City project.

Now, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations has arrested five young people for domestic terrorism. The usage of terrorist enhancement laws against protestors is a calculated political maneouver to silence widespread opposition to the Cop City project. The GBI knows that these charges will not hold up in court, and they are not intended to: the point is to raise the stakes of protesting.

Their goal is to create a chilling effect across the city, scaring off anyone concerned about police militarization and the climate crisis from taking action. And they’re under a lot pressure to do so: the Atlanta Police Foundation needs a show of force in the media for the Cop City’s corporate backers, inclduding AT&T, Cox Enterprises, and Home Depot. And the GBI needs to prove to Governor Kemp that they are taking steps to keep Atlanta politics in check. Unfortunately for the Atlanta Police Foundation, it is exactly this type of police abuse that galvanized Atlanta into opposing this project in the first place.

In the Fall of 2021, hundreds of Atlanta residents voiced their opposition to Cop City during the City Council vote. The overwhelming majority of those residents, our neighbors, did so out of an objection to the forms of police militarization this project would reward and the ecological damage it would cause to Atlanta’s urban forest. After being ignored by City Council, thousands have been forced to find other ways to oppose the construction of this facility.If completed, the proposed Cop City compound will give police access to even more tools to crush dissent. Atlanta Police’s use of violent tactics against activists Tuesday shows exactly the type of tactics they would be training at Cop City, and the egregious use of terrorist enhancement laws against tree-sitters and their on-the-ground support should be alarming to all who believe in the right to protest. The Atlanta forest defenders and community members will not be intimidated, and will continue to take action to protect our communites from racist policing and environmental destruction.

A support rally will happen on starting in Brownwood Park on Saturday, December 17, 2022 at 4pm.

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