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Just Published: How Georgia's RICO law swept up dozens of nonviolent 'Cop City' activists

Yesterday I published a piece for Grist about the unprecedented legal strategy Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is using to go after opponents of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, known as Cop City. Please read it, here.

There's been a lot of coverage of this, but my contribution was to  comb through the indictment and figure out what it actually alleges. I gave the charges themselves a super close read and made a brain-bending color-coded spreadsheet that I double-checked multiple times. Carr claims this case is all about accountability for violent acts, but I found that most of the people charged for conspiracy are not even accused of carrying out property damage or violent acts.

Civil RICO has been used by a lot of different corporations to bleed their political opponents dry in court — check out the cases of environmental nonprofit Greenpeace, or environmental attorney Steven Donziger, for example. However, a criminal case against activists like this, brought by the state, is super rare.

You can bet that a lot of corporate strategists are thinking about how what's happening in Atlanta might be a proving ground for future attempts to criminalize and repress protest movements. The money laundering charges in this case, aimed at a nonprofit that runs a bail fund that supports protesters, also have major potential to terrify people who want to support movements. And this has potential to divide wide-ranging movements that include both people who have no interest in participating in anything illegal, and more militant participants, who believe civil disobedience is necessary for change.

The indictment demands that a judge decide, what is the difference between a criminal enterprise and a movement? Is it illegal to participate in a social movement if some members, who you don't even know, commit illegal acts? And if that's the case, are we still actually doing democracy?

If you're interested, here's some other stuff I've written related to Cop City or RICO:

Documents show how 19 ‘Cop City’ activists got charged with terrorism
Documents show how Georgia police are invoking a 2017 terrorism law against activists accused of little more than trespassing.
Dakota Access Pipeline Company Paid Mercenaries to Build Conspiracy Lawsuit Against Environmentalists
The private security firm TigerSwan worked to build a RICO suit accusing Greenpeace, Earth First, and BankTrack of inciting protests to increase donations.
New Federal Anti-SLAPP Legislation Would Protect Activists and Whistleblowers From Abusive Lawsuits - Inside Climate News
Federal legislation introduced last week would help human rights defenders, environmental activists and regular people fight meritless lawsuits designed to drain them of resources. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs, are intended to silence the critics of companies or individ…