A legal support organization for protesters against Atlanta’s public safety training center says it returned to operations this week, nearly a month after three of its leaders were controversially charged with money laundering and charity fraud.
“We have resumed our activities and are continuing to accept donations,” the organization said. “We are stating publicly that we are here and ready with the bail, jail support, and legal support that Atlanta movements have come to depend on us to provide.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation on May 31 arrested ASF’s Marlon Scott Kautz, 39; Savannah D. Patterson, 30; and Adele Maclean, 42. In statements at the time, Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr presented the arrestees as supporting organized crime or terrorism but provided no evidence linking them directly to any violence.
The officials’ claims relied on an incorrect description in search warrants of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designating the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” protest movement as a “domestic violent extremist” group. In fact, the DHS makes no such group designations and had only referred in a public bulletin to “alleged” extremists within the protests. A former DHS attorney previously told SaportaReport that even such reports are often inaccurate and are often abused by local authorities to crack down on protests they don’t like.
The arrests drew skeptical commentary from a DeKalb County magistrate court judge who set the arrestees’ bonds. Several Democratic elected officials, including U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, also expressed skepticism about the First Amendment implications of the arrests. The arrests were among a handful of key moments that have galvanized protesters and drawn negative national attention from mainstream media, along with domestic terrorism charges against nonviolent protesters and the state police killing early this year of protester Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán in an alleged shootout.
In their return message, ASF decried Carr’s “heavy-handed repression tactics.”
ASF aids protesters in many left-wing causes but has been especially prominent in the movement against “Cop City,” as critics have dubbed the training center. ASF is one initiative of an umbrella program called Network for Strong Communities (NFSC), which also includes programs on mutual aid for disasters, food assistance, a “Copwatch” police monitoring, and leadership training.
The money laundering and charity fraud charges relate to the alleged misuse of funds related to NFSC. They include self-reimbursements for camping supplies, COVID tests, yard signs, gasoline, phone lines and community meetings related to Defend the Atlanta Forest protests. The underlying allegation is that the funds were used to support protests, which in turn are presented as terroristic in nature.