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In a National Public Radio interview with Alex Papali, one of the 61 people indicted, he said, “You know, I can say with certainty that I’m not involved in any conspiracy of this kind.”

Above screen capture from an NBC News report on Stop Cop City posted on YouTube.

Breaking Down the ‘Stop Cop City’ Controversy

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On Sept. 6, a major roadblock was placed in the way of the anti-Cop City movement, when 61 protesters were indicted. According to the official RICO indictment document released by Fulton County officials to the public, “Each individual charged in this indictment knowingly joined the conspiracy in an attempt to prevent the training center from being built. That conspiracy contained a common purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states.” 

However, in a National Public Radio interview with Alex Papali, one of the 61 people indicted, he said, “You know, I can say with certainty that I’m not involved in any conspiracy of this kind.” Papali flew in from Massachusetts to the state of Georgia, to see what the movement was about and experience it. Many have called into question the legal grounds on which this recent indictment is standing, as many people were arrested for simply protesting the construction of ‘Cop City’, including passing out flyers and raising funds for the bail of those who were incarcerated. Micheal Mears, a John Marshall Law School professor, stated in his interview with NPR, “It puts it up in the air. What can I do to protest and to show my anger or to show my discontent with this policy and not get arrested?” 

With the 2021 motion to obtain 85 acres of land in the Weelaunee Forest by the Atlanta Police Foundation and the city of Atlanta, the plan for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center was to be completed in 2022, landing its construction in a massive green area of DeKalb County. Furthermore, since DeKalb County is separate from the city of Atlanta, the legislation was passed without any input being given by the citizens of DeKalb. Mayor Andre Dickens has also shown significant support for the building of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, making it all but set in stone. Dickens in a June statement said, “Our busy, international city requires well-trained public safety responders to serve our communities, businesses, and visitors.” However, the effort for a referendum in which residents of the city of Atlanta would be able to vote on the lease of the land has accelerated these last few months, as the petition has amassed over 116,000 signatures.  Mayor Dickens made some comments on said effort in a recent letter to Senator Raphael Warnock, stating, “With respect to the referendum, as we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, all Atlantans, regardless of their position on the Public Safety Training Center, should have an opportunity to have their voice heard, and I will strive to ensure that the City will make every effort to treat those seeking a referendum with fairness and respect.” 

More recent developments surrounding the referendum have come out in the past weeks, as many signees’ personal information was leaked alongside the release of petition pages by Atlanta city officials. However, there have been no recent updates to trial dates or anything of the like concerning the RICO indictment. Considering the fact that Atlanta has three major RICO cases going on currently (with the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump and Atlanta-based rapper Young Thug and Young Slime Life), it will be quite a while for any movement to occur, leaving many to wait and see what the verdicts may be, as the judicial process plays out.

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comments (2)

  1. Abram Himelstein

    Well-reported. Helps me understand from New Orleans what’s happening in Atlanta.

  2. Rita V

    Great article! Thank you, Amani!!