More than twenty people charged with domestic terrorism after festival arrests

Officials with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) stated the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has charged 23 people with domestic terrorism after construction equipment was destroyed during a musical festival in the South River forest on March 5.

Of the 23 people arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, two are listed as Georgia residents. Two others traveled from as far as Canada and France.

In one video released by APD, police officers run from construction equipment as dozens of people dressed in all black or camouflage enter part of the Atlanta Police Training Facility construction area and begin setting off fireworks, throwing objects and setting equipment on fire.

In a press release, APD said, “the agitators changed into black clothing, entered the construction area and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers.”

“The agitators destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment by fire and vandalism,” stated officials with APD. “Multiple law enforcement agencies deployed to the area and detained several people committing illegal activity and 35 agitators have been detained so far. The illegal actions of the agitators could have resulted in bodily harm. Officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to conduct arrests.”

Members of Defend the Atlanta Forest, a group that opposes the Atlanta Police Training Facility and organized the music festival, said a protest group, separate from the thousands of attendees of the music festival, “marched to the forest near the Old Prison Farm, the site leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation for Cop City. The march was in response to the murder of activist Tortuguita and a move to reclaim the Weelaunee Forest as a public common (area). There are reports of construction vehicles and surveillance equipment being set on fire.”

“Sometime after this action, police retaliated viciously by raiding the entire forest, arresting at least 35 people at the nearby music festival, including people with no connection to or awareness of the action on the other side of the nearly 600-acre forest,” stated members of Defend the Atlanta Forest.

Approximately 42 people have now been charged with domestic terrorism in relation to incidents that occurred on or near the site of the controversial Atlanta Police Training Center project.

On March 5, a letter co-signed by 66 environmental, human rights, and civil liberties organizations was sent to Georgia prosecutors, including DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, urging charges of domestic terrorism to be dropped for “Stop Cop City/Defend the Atlanta Forest defendants.”

“Civil disobedience and disruptive activism are part of the American protest tradition,” the letter reads, in part. “From the Boston Tea Party to the Civil Rights Movement, Americans have long drawn on civil disobedience tactics akin to the occupation of the Atlanta forest by the Stop Cop City protesters. Based on the information contained in the arrest warrants, many of the people charged with domestic terrorism are accused only of trespassing or other minor crimes. In all cases, application of the domestic terrorism statute is an escalatory intimidation tactic and a draconian step that seems intended to chill First Amendment protected activity.”

With numerous events and activities listed on the Defend the Atlanta Forest website throughout March, APD officials said they are requesting “for the upcoming protests to remain peaceful.”

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