60+ facing RICO charges over Atlanta police training center protestsFILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRAITON PURPOSES: On Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, over 100 people gathered outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in Decatur to demand District Attorney Sherry Boston drop all charges against six individuals arrested Dec. 13 & 14, 2022, during a police raid at the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, the site of the proposed 85-acre police/fire training facility for the city of Atlanta, dubbed “Cop City” by opponents. Photo by Dean Hesse.
By Tim Darnell and Patrick Quinn, Atlanta News First
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) — Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has filed organized crime charges against more than 60 people in connection with their protests over Atlanta’s controversial new police and public safety training facility, according to court records.
A total of 61 people have been charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Several of the defendants are also facing separate charges of domestic terrorism; attempted arson in the first degree; and money laundering.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants are members of Defend the Atlanta Forest, which Carr described Tuesday afternoon as an anarchist, anti-police, and anti-business extremist organization.
Of the 61 defendants who have been indicted, 13 are from Georgia. Read the full indictments here.
“As this indictment shows, looking the other way when violence occurs is not an option in Georgia,” Carr said. “If you come to our state and shoot a police officer, throw Molotov cocktails at law enforcement, set fire to police vehicles, damage construction equipment, vandalize private homes and businesses, and terrorize their occupants, you can and will be held accountable. We will not waver when it comes to keeping people safe, enforcing the rule of law, and ensuring those who engage in criminal activity are vigorously pursued and aggressively prosecuted.”
Carr said the investigation was led by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in partnership with the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia Department of Public Safety, the DeKalb County Police Department, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee was originally assigned the case but recused himself. McAfee has also been assigned the massive RICO case against former President Donald Trump and 18 other co-defendants accused of attempting to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.
As approved by the City Council in September 2021, the land is being leased to the private Atlanta Police Foundation for $10 a year. The proposed referendum would seek to cancel that agreement.
Opponents said more than 35,000 signatures have been collected towards the effort to get the issue of the public safety training center known as “Cop City” on an upcoming ballot.
In June, opponents of the proposed training center said they needed to gather the signatures of 15% of the approximately 469,000 city residents who were registered to vote in the last election, which would be 70,330 signatures.
In June, the Atlanta City Council approved roughly $67 million in public funding for the proposed project. In late July, a federal judge ruled in favor of DeKalb County residents who were seeking to collect signatures for a referendum on the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. The judge also allowed for the signature-gathering window to be extended.
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Decaturish media partner Atlanta News First provided this story.