Arrests in Atlanta ‘Cop City’ protests raise concerns over domestic terrorism charges


The decision by Prosecutors’ decision to bring domestic terrorism charges against opponents of. A police training center outside Atlanta is drawing criticism. With some legal experts saying it’s a potentially dangerous overreach. That could be seen as politically motivated.

More than a dozen people have been charged. With domestic terrorism in connection with the protests. Including seven after clashes with police on Jan. 18 who were trying. To clear the center’s proposed site, dubbed “Cop City” by critics.

A man was shot and killed by police in the confrontation after he opened fire and wounded a state trooper. Authorities said. In protests and police sweeps after the killings.

In December, the same charges were filed against five people. After law enforcement cleared barricades and confronted protesters.

Critics of domestic terrorism laws, including some civil rights groups. Oppose them “because of the risk of politicization. Because they could be used. By the government against politically disfavored groups. Said University of Illinois law professor Patrick Keenan. .

A 2017 Georgia law defines domestic terrorism as a crime. With intent to kill or harm people; “disables or destroys critical infrastructure. Astate or government facility, or a public transportation system”; “intimidate.

The civilian population or any political subdivision thereof. And “using subversive devices, assassinations or kidnappings. To change state policy or force or influence government conduct.” Conviction carries a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison.

Charges against the protesters include trespassing, resisting arrest, throwing rocks. And glass bottles and damaging property, including setting police vehicles on fire. Authorities also said they found “explosive devices, gasoline. And street fires” in an area of the forest where protesters had makeshift treehouses.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, called the protesters “militant activists. And said “we will bring down the full force of state and local law enforcement against those who. Are trying to advance a radical agenda through violent means.

Arrests in Atlanta 'Cop City' protests raise concerns over domestic terrorism charges

Although “domestic terrorism” is defined in the Patriot Act of 2001, there. Is no specific federal offense covering acts of terrorism within the United States tha.

Other officially designated international terrorist groups. Or their sympathizers—even though in recent years The United State. Says white supremacist and militia groups are a top domestic terrorism threat.

Last year’s mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, fits that category, said Javed Ali. In associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The 19-year-old white supremacist who shot and killed 10 black men last May was the first person. Terrorism charges carry an automatic life sentence.

But in several states, including Georgia, domestic terrorism laws includ. Abroader range of crimes beyond hate-motivated crimes.

Because Georgia’s law “focuses on conduct intended to intimidate the government. Or influence the government in any way,” law professor Keenan said. It is “particularly vulnerable to political use.”

Keenan said he believes attaching the domestic terrorism label. To the protesters “could have some really dangerous implications.”

“I don’t think most protesters are the biggest domestic terrorism threat. The threat of domestic terrorism is coming from other places. And so using this law really openly and prominently to try to quell these protests.

Keenan said that while he doesn’t condone violence or attacks on law enforcement. He believes there are other ways to deal with those things. Under Georgia law that don’t include allegations of domestic terrorism.

“As anyone who has handled a capital murder case in Georgia. Ican tell you that Georgia law has many ways. To deal with violence against law enforcement or anyone,” he said. “So this domestic terrorism legislation is not necessary and it could lead to this political use that I think does nobody any good.”

Joshua Schiffer, an attorney who represents one of the protesters, said he believes that. As the investigation progresses. The charges will not be justified,” calling them “particularly concerning” because of Georgia. Rich history of civil rights and civil disobedience.

He said, “The use of such aggressive laws by the state will become the state’s position on the protesters

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