The charges have been used as a tactic to snuff out demonstrations after police killed a “Cop City” protestor

Thomas Jurgens, a legal observer and attorney with civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), was arrested and charged with domestic terrorism during a Sunday night demonstration against the development of a 85-acre police training complex in Atlanta’s South River Forest.

Jurgens is one of more than 40 people charged with domestic terrorism in connection to the facility, which demonstrators have dubbed “Cop City.” The attorney was acting as a legal observer at the time of his arrest, the National Lawyers Guild (which monitors protests) said in a statement, according to the Daily Beast.

“An employee at the SPLC was arrested while acting—and identifying—as a legal observer on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG),” the SPLC said in a statement, per the report. “The employee is an experienced legal observer, and their arrest is not evidence of any crime, but of heavy-handed law enforcement intervention against protesters.”

Terrorism charges have been used as a tactic to snuff out protests against the police training center. In January, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp charged demonstrators in downtown Atlanta with domestic terrorism, calling up the National Guard to stand by to put down any further resistance.


In two raids on the protesters’ forest encampment in December and January, over a dozen other protesters were arrested and hit with similar charges, despite many of their arrest records showing that they committed no specific crimes other than misdemeanor trespassing. Police killed Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, a 26-year-old during one of these raids on Jan. 18. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation claimed that Teran shot first, hitting an officer from the Georgia State Patrol in the abdomen, before he was gunned down by police. However, forest demonstrators have rejected the narrative, as there is no body camera footage or civilian witnesses to Tortuguita’s killing.

“All of these arrests are part of ongoing state repression and violence against racial and environmental justice protesters, who are fighting to defend their communities from the harms of militarized policing and environmental degradation,” NLG added in a statement. “Each of these instances, including the many protesters charged with domestic terrorism, make clear that law enforcement views movement activists as enemies of the state.”


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