61 People Indicted on Racketeering Charges Following Investigation into Protests Against Proposed Police Training Facility

Sixty-one people in Georgia have been indicted on racketeering charges after a lengthy state investigation into protests against a proposed police and firefighter training facility near Atlanta. The indictment, released by Fulton County officials, alleges that the defendants are “militant anarchists” who have supported a violent movement connected to the 2020 racial justice protests. The charges were brought by Republican Attorney General Chris Carr under the state’s racketeering law, also known as a RICO law. The protests, known as the “Stop Cop City” movement, have been ongoing for over two years and have involved acts of vandalism and violence.

The majority of the indicted individuals were already facing charges related to their alleged involvement in the protests. More than three dozen people are facing domestic terrorism charges in connection to violent protests. Three leaders of a bail fund have been accused of money laundering. Additionally, three activists were charged with felony intimidation for distributing flyers that referred to a state trooper as a “murderer” for his role in the fatal shooting of an environmental protester.

Prosecutors have made a range of allegations to link the defendants to the alleged conspiracy. These include possessing fire accelerant, throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, and receiving reimbursement for supplies for activists who camped near the construction site.

Protests against the training center intensified after the fatal shooting of protester Manuel Esteban Paez Terán in January. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation stated that state troopers fired in self-defense after Paez Terán shot at them while they were clearing protesters. However, activists have questioned the official narrative due to the lack of body camera footage from the troopers involved.

Supporters of the proposed training facility argue that it would replace inadequate facilities and help address hiring and retention difficulties for police officers in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The “Stop Cop City” movement has been associated with acts of violence and vandalism, such as setting a police car on fire and torching construction equipment. The RICO charges carry significant penalties and can be added on top of the penalties for the underlying acts.

Georgia’s RICO Act, established in 1980, criminalizes participation in, acquisition or control of an “enterprise” through a pattern of racketeering activity or conspiracy to do so. The case has been assigned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams after Judge Scott McAfee recused himself.

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