The Bail Project raises intimidation concerns over Atlanta Solidarity Fund arrestsActivists opposing the construction of “Cop City” at the Old Atlanta Prison Farm have occupied the site and neighboring Intrenchment Creek Park, pictured here. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Atlanta, GA — On May 31, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Atlanta Police Department arrested three people on charges of money laundering and charity fraud. The Bail Project raised concerns that the arrests are an attempt to intimidate and silence those protesting the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
The three people are organizers of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, a nonprofit organization and bail fund that supports “those facing state repression for protest-related activity.” The ASF was founded in 2016.
“We’re afraid that this excessive display of force was used both to retaliate against those who have been engaged in acts of civil disobedience to protest the building of the facility and to intimidate those who support nonviolent actions like operating a community bail fund,” The Bail Project said in a statement.
The Bail Project is a national nonprofit that provides free bail assistance and pretrial support to thousands of low-income people every year, while advancing policy change at the local, state and national level.
Historically, community bail funds like the Atlanta Solidarity Fund have supported peaceful protestors who have been arrested.
“From the early establishment of bail funds during the Red Scare and Civil Rights eras to the community bail funds that have been established in recent times across this country to help civilians detained during racial justice demonstrations, bail funds have historically served as a bulwark for the First Amendment,” the statement says.
As a national bail reform organization, the Bail Project believes that community bail funds provide a key service by minimizing a person’s exposure to pretrial incarceration.
“Even if law enforcement officials determined that an investigation into the group’s finances was objectively warranted, surely they could have proceeded in a more measured and less heavy-handed way,” the statement said.
Marlon Scott Kautz, age 39, of Atlanta, Savannah D Patterson, age 30, of Savannah and Adele Maclean, age 42, of Atlanta were all charged on May 31 related to an ongoing investigation of incidents at the future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center and other metro Atlanta locations, according to a press release from the GBI.
The site has been the center of controversy over the last few months. Police officers shot and killed Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Teran, 26, on Jan. 18 near an 85-acre police/fire training facility located in DeKalb County’s South River Forest. Activists call it “Cop City.” A State Trooper was also shot and wounded.
GBI agents and APD officers executed a search warrant on Wednesday and found evidence linking the suspects to the financial crimes, according to a press release. Kautz, Patterson and Maclean will be booked into a local jail and a bond hearing will be scheduled soon.
This case is being jointly prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.
Stop Cop City Movement activists also issued a press release claiming that APD is ramping up political repression of its adversaries and is targeting the Atlanta Solidarity Fund.
The Atlanta Solidarity Fund has been an outspoken critic of the repression of social movements, the use of chemical weapons on protestors, and increasing police militarization.
“This is an extreme provocation by Atlanta Police Department and the State of Georgia. Bailing out protestors who exercise their constitutionally protected rights is simply not a crime. In fact, it is a historically grounded tradition in the very same social and political movements that the city of Atlanta prides itself on. Someone had to bail out civil rights activists in the 60’s–I think we can all agree that community support isn’t a crime,” said attorney Lauren Regan, Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
To date, 42 people have been charged with domestic terrorism and one protester was killed by Georgia State Patrol. Since this shooting, nearly 30 additional people have been charged with domestic terrorism for their alleged participation in protests, and some for attending a music festival organized supporting the movement, according to the press release.
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