Dec 15, 2022 - News

"Cop City" activists charged with domestic terrorism

A photo of a banner urging people to "defend Atlanta forest" hanging between two trees in Atlanta woods

Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

Five activists arrested during Tuesday's clash with law enforcement at the proposed site of Atlanta's new public safety academy have been charged with domestic terrorism, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The domestic terrorism charges are the most serious to date since activists started building camps and living among the trees more than a year ago in the dense city-owned forest in DeKalb County.

Details: Tuesday, according to the GBI, a task force of local, state and federal law enforcement attempted to remove barricades installed by activists to block access to the property.

  • "Several people threw rocks at police cars and attacked EMTs outside the neighboring fire stations with rocks and bottles," GBI spokesperson Nelly Miles said in a statement. "Task force members used various tactics to arrest individuals who were occupying makeshift treehouses."

Supporters of the resistance effort — who have dubbed the proposed complex "Cop City" — allege those tactics included police firing pepper balls, tear gas canisters and "chemical irritants" at the activists who had built makeshift camping platforms in trees.

  • At a press conference yesterday morning near the property, supporters said the resistance would continue, the AJC reported.
  • "I think there are forest defenders who will continue to defend the forest," Kamau Franklin of Community Movement Builders said. "That means civil disobedience, that means rallies, demonstrations. That means all the tactics that we can use."

According to a release from Stop Cop City ATL, police held at gunpoint and arrested a community member who supports the effort but isn't involved with the encampment while they walked along a trail in the woods.

What's happening: In a statement, Gov. Brian Kemp referred to the encampment as a "criminal network," and said law enforcement would continue to "ensure construction for the first responder training facility moves forward."

  • As of 11am Wednesday, according to reports relayed to the Atlanta Community Press Collective by activists, DeKalb police were trying to persuade the remaining occupiers to leave.

The names and charges of the people arrested include:

  • Francis Carroll, 22, of Maine: criminal trespass, domestic terrorism, aggravated assault, felony obstruction, interference with government property, possession of tools for the commission of the crime
  • Nicholas Olsen, 25, of Nebraska: domestic terrorism, aggravated assault, interference with government property, obstruction
  • Serena Hertel, 25, of California: criminal trespass, domestic terrorism, aggravated assault, obstruction, inciting a riot
  • Leonard Vioselle, 20, of Macon: criminal trespass, domestic terrorism, possession for tools of the crime
  • Arieon Robinson, 22, of Wisconsin: criminal trespass, obstruction, domestic terrorism

Editor's note: Cox Enterprises President and CEO Alex Taylor, a former chair of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, led a campaign to raise private funds for the project. Cox owns Axios.


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