A conceptual illustration of tree plantings at the main buildings of the proposed public safety training center. (Image by Atlanta Police Foundation.)

“Stop Cop City” protesters are planning a Nov. 6 rally to support 61 defendants facing racketeering and other charges related to activism opposing Atlanta’s public safety training center.

The rally is planned for 9 a.m. at the Fulton County Justice Center & Courts at 185 Central Ave. The defendants are expected to be arraigned in a courtroom within the complex that morning.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr presented an indictment in Fulton County Superior Court on Aug. 29 accusing the defendants of various major felonies, including violations of the state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law.

The indictment’s premise is that the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” protest movement, which also opposes the training center, is a criminal organization. Protest organizers say that is not true, and a diverse array of human rights, press freedom and other groups has condemned the RICO charges, as well as domestic terrorism charges Carr previously leveled against many of the same defendants. 

Community Movement Builders (CMB) is among the groups organizing the rally to support the defendants, whom they refer to as the “Atlanta 61.” 

“The RICO charges are clearly baseless, just as the domestic terrorism charges are,” said CMB leader Kamau Franklin in a press release. “Criminalizing those participating in a movement against police violence truly demonstrates that there is no such thing in America as freedom of speech or freedom to protest.”

The press release also quoted Alex Papali, a Boston resident who is one of the RICO defendants. The indictment accuses him of being part of a large group of protesters that assaulted the training center on March 5, with some people burning construction equipment and vandalizing other property.

“Anyone concerned about misuse of the legal system by powerful people with a corrupt political agenda is a stakeholder in this fight,” said Papali. “Standing together to do the right thing is how we win.”

Other groups involved in the rally, according to the press release, include the Atlanta chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, Weelaunee Anti-Repression Posse, Tucson Anti-Repression Crew and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

The rally is part of a “Week of Action” by protesters who oppose the training center at Constitution and Key roads in DeKalb County, which they have dubbed “Cop City.” A group called the Block Cop City Coalition has declared a “mass nonviolent direct action” from Nov. 10 to 13 that it says will culminate in a march on the site to stop construction activity. 

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