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Inside the Dangerous "Domestic Terrorism" Charges Against Cop City Protesters
"Fleeing from Atlanta Police Department investigator Ronald Sluss, causing...scrapes and cuts," reads warrant charging one protester with domestic terrorism. Status Coup combed through four others
Status Coup News has combed through arrest search warrants for five protesters who were arrested—and charged with domestic terrorism—in December 2022 after taking part in demonstrations in opposition to a proposed $90 million militarized police compound in Atlanta protesters have called “Cop City.”
Protesters have been demonstrating against Cop City, in and around Atlanta’s Weelaunee Forest, since July 2021. Many have engaged in tree-sits, climbing up trees and forming treehouses they reside in to stop those trees from being cut down as part of what police and local politicians have described as a “training center.” The sprawling center would actually form a mock city with testing areas for explosives as well as firing ranges. If built, Cop City would exist on the doorstep of a community that is 75 percent Black.
The arrest warrants are all dated December 13, 2022. We have redacted the names of those charged. The charges are as follows:
Interference with Government Property
Interference with Government Property
The search warrant charging the first protester with domestic terrorism accuses them of “fleeing from Atlanta Police Department investigator Ronald Sluss, causing injuries to INV Sluss’ right knee and right elbow, said injuries being scrapes and cuts.”
The protester had a secondary charge of domestic terrorism with police accusing them of “throwing rocks at fire department and EMS workers, possessing road flares of the same style and type as have been used to set fires on the property, and possessing incendiary devices.”
As the search warrant explicitly states, GBI alleges this protester set fires in the forest simply by the fact that they allegedly possessed road flares of the “same style”—hardly meeting any semblance of a burden of proof.
Important to note: the Department of Homeland Security that classified DTAF as “domestic violent extremists” is the same agency that collaborated with TigerSwan, a Blackwater-Esque private security group, to surveil indigenous protesters who fought to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in 2016. As The Intercept reported:
Activists on the ground were tracked by a Dakota Access helicopter that provided live video coverage to their observers in police agencies, according to an October 12 email thread that included officers from the FBI, DHS, BIA, state, and local police. In one email, National Security Intelligence Specialist Terry Van Horn of the U.S. attorney’s office acknowledged his direct access to the helicopter video feed, which was tracking protesters’ movements during a demonstration. “Watching a live feed from DAPL Helicopter, pending arrival at site(s),” he wrote. Cecily Fong, a spokesperson for law enforcement throughout the protests, acknowledged that an operations center in Bismarck had access to the feed, stating in an email to The Intercept that “the video was provided as a courtesy so we had eyes on the situation.”
The second Cop City protester charged with domestic terrorism in December is accused of “occupying a treehouse on the site, refusing to leave, and posting videos and calls for actions on social media sites used by DTAF.”
The third protester charged with domestic terrorism is accused of “throwing rocks at fire department and EMS workers following a request for action by other DTAF members.”
The fourth protester charged with domestic terrorism is accused of “occupying a tree house while wearing as gas mask and camouflage clothing.”
The fifth protester charged with domestic terrorism was accused of “being located on the property while wearing camouflage clothing and possessing incendiary devices.”
These arrests happened weeks before recent police escalations against protesters, known as forest defenders, which include the killing of a beloved protester. On Wednesday, January 18, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation [GBI] officer shot and killed protester and forest defender Manuel Teran, known as Tortuguita.
Police allege that during a “clearing operation”— which was in fact a violent raid to clear out protesters by force—an officer shot Teran, 26, in self-defense after they allegedly opened fire at them. GBI provided no evidence to support the self-defense claim and also claimed there was no body camera footage to document the killing. There are photos of SWAT team members on the scene wearing their body cameras.
Join us live at 6 pm today as Jordan Chariton will be joined by environmental and civil rights attorney Steven Donziger to discuss:
The killing of Teran led to explosive protests on Saturday, January 21. Status Coup’s Tina-Desiree Berg reported on-the-ground as at least five protesters were arrested and a police vehicle was lit on fire (footage captured by Status Coup).
Desiree Berg reported from inside Weelaunee Forest days after Teran’s killing. As she reported, she came across multiple vigils for the beloved forest defender.
You can watch Desiree Berg’s full report from inside the forest below.
Protesters and activists reject the claim, calling Teran’s killing “murder.”
“It was a murder—we’re dealing with people [police] that labeled protesters terrorists while they were sitting in trees literally minding their business and they were pepper sprayed, had pepper balls fired at them, had rubber bullets fired at them, and did not respond whatsoever yet they were still labeled terrorists,” activist Matthew Johnson told Status Coup’s Desiree Berg and Ron Placone. “So we are led to believe that it’s quite likely that the claim that an officer was fired at first is specious.”
Protesters have resisted the militarized compound, citing the threat of tearing down one of the largest preserved forests in Atlanta, defiling land which was historically inhabited by Native Americans, and residing on the doorstep of a neighborhood that is 75 percent Black. The land was also a longtime prison farm until the 1990s. According to Atlanta Magazine, prisoners grew crops (vegetables “from okra to collard greens,” the newspaper said in 1976) and raised livestock to feed themselves and others incarcerated at local facilities, in addition to digging and maintaining the animals’ graves.
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