UE condemns the increasing repression being directed towards the “Stop Cop City” movement in Atlanta and their supporters. The violent police attacks on peaceful protesters, including the murder of one activist in January, are unconscionable in a democracy. The charges of “domestic terrorism” against protesters, and the recent arrests of organizers whose sole “crime” was to provide bail for those arrested during the protests, are clearly designed to criminalize and stifle dissent.
As delegates to UE’s 2021 Convention declared, “The chilling effect of denials of our democratic freedoms curtails political debate within the U.S., limits the ability of all citizens to make democratic choices for the future of our country, and thereby undermines our livelihoods and living standards.”
The Atlanta protesters are seeking to stop the construction of a massive police training complex in one of the city’s largest remaining green spaces. Dubbed “Cop City” by protesters, the construction project would raze 85 acres of a city-owned urban forest that has been designated as one of the city’s “lungs.” Although the project was initiated by the private and corporate-funded Atlanta Police Foundation, it is estimated that between 30 and 50 million dollars of public funds will go towards it. Approximately 70 percent of the public comments made about the project opposed it.
In a democracy, decisions about the use of publicly-owned land and public funds should be driven by robust public debate, including the right of members of the public to peacefully protest. Instead, Atlanta has chosen repression. Over 40 people are facing charges of domestic terrorism for their participation in peaceful protest against this project, and in January a 26-year-old protester known as Tortuguita was killed by police. Tortuguita was shot at least 57 times while sitting cross-legged on the ground in the forest.
In a chilling development, a heavily-armed police SWAT team raided the home of three organizers on May 31, arresting them on charges of “money laundering” and “charity fraud.” In reality, all these organizers had done was raise bail funds and line up lawyers for arrested protesters. This attack is reminiscent of the federal government’s prosecution of a similar bail fund run by the Civil Rights Congress in the 1950s to defend those who, like many UE leaders, were charged with the thought-crime of “communism” during the McCarthy era.
At a time when workers across the country are increasingly willing to strike and use other militant tactics to oppose rampant corporate greed, working people must remain vigilant and united against any attacks on our right to peacefully protest against injustice.
Director of Organization