he Houston Democracy Project tries to keep it local. The fight over the construction of Cop City in Atlanta and the State of Georgia charges resulting from that fight are a matter of both national and local importance.
The charges point towards a criminalization for organizing for justice and freedom.
Cop City is a giant police training camp planned for construction in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. The legal fights over the place are not just between organizers and the Republican-run State of Georgia. Democratic-run City of Atlanta is refusing to verify signatures that would force a referendum on Cop City.
The issue with the Cop City indictments and the refusal of City of Atlanta to certify the signatures is deeper even than organizing for social justice. It strikes right to heart of the fight for democracy. It is not difficult to imagine charges meant to criminalize dissent and the expression of dissent, after the overturning of an election or the exclusion of votes in a close election.
A Houston-based organization that has grasped the connection of the Cop City issue to organizing in Houston and elsewhere is West Street Recovery. They issued a statement about the indictments that is copied in full below.
Here is the mission statement of WSR:
"West Street Recovery’s mission is to connect communities to the resources that they need to not only rebuild after climate disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, but to build communities that are resilient, secure and stronger than before."
There is a lot of denial about where we are in our politics today. The right has an anti-democratic gun to our heads. West Street Recovery was right to speak up. Other social justice/human rights-orientated non-profits, and elected officials as well, should do the same.
Here is the statement from West Street Recovery:
"This week prosecutors in Georgia indicted 61 organizers and activists on Racketeering and Conspiracy charges related to the resistance to the construction of a massive police tactical training center known as “cop city.” For WSR, and for any individual or organization engaged in social justice work, the action by the state of Georgia is gravely concerning. The indictment, which you can and should read in full here, describes the Defend Atlanta Forest group as “Anarchists, Community Organizers and Eco Activists.” It explains that the group promotes “mutual aid, collectivism and social solidarity.” The indictment is an attempt to criminalize dissent and organizing. It is also designed to intimidate non profits and non profit workers who support movements for police accountability and environmental justice.
As an organization we enthusiastically and steadfastly promote “mutual aid, collectivism and social solidarity.” These beliefs and the practices that are inspired by them are essential components of any movement towards liberation. In fact, these beliefs are at the root of community and society itself. Although WSR’s staff volunteers and community members are ideologically diverse, many members of us could be described with the terms used in the indictment: “anarchist, eco activists” -- and all of us (and we hope many of you reading this) are “community organizers.” Framing these identities, beliefs and practices as part of a criminal enterprise is intentional and is designed to create fear among people like us who work every day to enact a more just, equitable and peaceful world.
It is notable that the indictment says that the conspiracy began May 25, 2020, the day George Floyd was murdered by Police in Minneapolis. This choice by prosecutors makes it clear that ending organized resistance to police violence is a key goal of the prosecution. Because authorities understand how social movements work they have targeted the logistical, financial and communications support that makes protest effective and sustainable. All movements for justice require this kind of support. Montgomery bus boycotters were provided carpools and mechanical repairs for community drivers by churches and civil rights leaders. LGBTQ+ people with AIDS were provided hospice care by nuns and queer nurses alike when governments refused to acknowledge that the virus existed. And, during the 2020 Black Liberation Uprising protesters were provided legal support, bail assistance and street medic care. Because we believe in a world rooted in justice and equality, and because we believe radical shifts in material distribution, power relations, and connection with our environment are needed to achieve a just world, WSR will continue to support the movements and coalitions, like those in Atlanta, that are working tirelessly towards that goal.
WSR stands in solidarity with the resistance to Cop City. We stand in opposition to an indictment that seeks to criminalize mutual aid work and educational work intended to create a more just future. And, finally, we call on anyone reading this to continue doing the mutual aid work, community organizing work and collective action that has always been the engine for equality, justice and peace."
I'm Neil Aquino