Georgia makes use of ‘political fear-mongering’ in efforts to cost Cop Metropolis protesters

Georgia makes use of ‘political fear-mongering’ in efforts to cost Cop Metropolis protesters

State and federal authorities in Georgia are deploying “political fear-mongering” in current makes an attempt to prosecute Atlanta residents linked to a protest motion towards a police and fireplace division coaching heart also referred to as Cop Metropolis.

The middle is being constructed on a 171-acre footprint in a forest south-east of Atlanta. Opposition to the undertaking has come from a variety of native and nationwide supporters and is centered on issues over police militarization and clearing forests in an period of local weather disaster. Atlanta police say the middle is required for “world-class” coaching.

The struggle towards Cop Metropolis additionally attracted nationwide and international headlines after police shot and killed one environmental protester at a campsite in a public park on 18 January 2023 – the primary such incident of its sort in US historical past. However the authorized and political crackdown on protesters has additionally been intense.

Within the final week, federal investigators and a state prosecutor tried to persuade a decide at a listening to to impose a $2m bond towards John Mazurek, accused of committing arson towards police bikes in July – and that the 31-year-old carpenter was susceptible to fleeing to Mexico to take refuge amongst Indigenous communities within the south of the nation.

In the meantime, in a separate incident, two protesters who climbed a crane at a midtown Atlanta Brassfield & Gorrie development web site, the principle firm constructing the coaching heart, had been charged with felony false imprisonment. That could be a “trumped-up cost” based mostly on the false declare that the crane’s operator couldn’t depart the positioning, stated Tim Franzen, Atlanta financial justice program director on the American Associates Service Committee, who was on the scene.

These and different current particulars are firsts within the felony justice system’s ongoing response to a broad-based motion now in its fourth yr.

Mazurek was finally launched on Sunday on a $75,000 bond, after being held in jail since his 8 February arrest throughout Swat-style raids carried out on three Atlanta homes, together with one Mazurek owns. The raids had been the primary tied to the motion towards the coaching heart through which the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) performed a outstanding function.

They got here after weeks of Atlanta officers selling a marketing campaign – together with a $200,000 reward – to catch activists linked to arson towards development and police gear, all of the whereas activists dedicated extra acts of sabotage, alternating with nonviolent, civil disobedience.

For almost half-hour of Mazurek’s bond listening to final week, Fulton county assistant district lawyer George Jenkins centered on the defendant’s journey late final yr to take part in occasions observing the thirtieth anniversary of the Zapatista rebellion, through which Indigenous activists in Chiapas, Mexico, protested present and historic abuses of their communities.

Jenkins tried to place ahead the concept that the Zapatistas had been nonetheless a harmful armed pressure and by some means Mazurek would flee to Chiapas to hunt refuge.

Protection lawyer Lauren Brown known as tutorial Margaret Cerullo, lately retired from instructing at Hampshire School after 46 years, as a witness. She has led college students on discipline journeys to Chiapas since 2001, was eventually yr’s ceremonies, and is aware of Mazurek.

The tutorial identified that the Zapatistas stopped any pretense of armed resistance after solely 12 days in 1994, and had “not fired a single shot since”. Jenkins countered: “How are you aware?” – referring to occasions broadly noticed by worldwide journalists and extensively documented by historians and others.

At one level, the prosecutor requested Cerullo: “Hypothetically, if a fugitive had been to be within the [Chiapas] area, might the state seize them?” Her reply: “In 30 years, I’ve by no means heard of something like that.”

Jenkins insisted: Mazurek “can flee to that location … [and] with out beginning a warfare, how might we obtain bringing his physique to court docket?”

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Afterward, Cerullo instructed the Guardian: “I didn’t perceive what the state was driving at … it was like two ships passing within the night time … [like] they had been attempting to assemble the biography of a terrorist, with the Zapatistas as a lawless, guerrilla group as another component in a radicalized younger man able to doing hurt.”

The state argued towards letting Mazurek out of jail, however really useful a $2m bond if Fulton county decide Emily Richmond launched him.

Marlon Kautz, organizer on the Atlanta Solidarity Fund – a bail and authorized protection fund – described the prosecutor’s method as “attempting to maintain activists locked up so long as doable. The $2m was a quantity to strive and ensure he wasn’t launched – based mostly on obscure, political fear-mongering.”

Kautz, who was arrested in Might 2023 and is one in all 61 folks dealing with unprecedented conspiracy, or Rico costs in reference to Cop Metropolis, described the state’s method to the listening to as “utilizing [Mazurek’s] political associations and views towards him”.

Mazurek’s bond circumstances embrace surrendering his passport, 24-hour home arrest and being prohibited from affiliation with anybody in what the state refers to as “Defend the Atlanta Forest”, a phrase taken from social media, and never an precise group. Notably, they permit him to affiliate together with his fiancee but additionally prohibit her from participating in activism towards Cop Metropolis.

“Prosecutors are utilizing the bail system as a weapon towards a political motion,” Kautz stated.

Tim Franzen was on the current motion through which activists hooked up themselves to a crane, unfurling a banner saying: “Cease Cop Metropolis”. He stated he tried to inform Atlanta police on the scene that the crane operator might safely climb down a ladder, because the activists had been “performing within the spirit of nonviolence, and wished everybody to be secure”. These conversations are captured on police physique cams, he added.

As a substitute, he stated, police instructed the development employee to remain put through the four-plus hours it took them to take away the protesters – after which charged them with felony false imprisonment.

Franzen stated he had by no means seen these costs given to nonviolent protesters in Atlanta in 16 years of neighborhood organizing with AFSC, a Quaker social justice group.

“They’re trumped-up … and clearly punitive, utilizing the legislation for political causes,” he stated.

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