The lawsuits are for violation of First Amendment and wrongful arrest in September 2021
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correction that four Atlanta residents, not five, plus one journalist, have filed multiple lawsuits against the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department. Our sources informed of us of this change at 11:05 a.m. EST on Nov. 3, 2023 and it was promptly corrected.
ATLANTA — Four Atlanta residents and one journalist have filed multiple lawsuits against the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department after being arrested during a ‘Stop Cop City’ protest on Sept. 8, 2021. The plaintiffs notified press through their official press release last night.
Mainline originally reported on the arrest, which occurred while Atlanta City Council was voting to pass the lease agreement between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation to build the proposed $90 million-plus police militarization facility known as “Cop City”. Council members passed the ordinance following the record-breaking 17 hours of public comment from constituents in overwhelming opposition of the facility. As the council members were voting, protesters gathered outside members’ residences to express their dissent through chants and signs.
Ten protesters and a journalist were present outside then-City Council President Natalyn Archibong’s home in protest. Archibong stated in an interview with local journalist King Williams the next day that she did not call the police nor request the protesters to leave, and that she was not going to press any charges. She also verified there was no property damage. In her interview, she said she did not learn of the arrests until she received a direct text message from an APD Zone 6 commander informing her.
According to arrestees’ statements, police made aggressive arrests and detained everyone on site, including the journalist who was covering the event, violating their First Amendment Right to gather in protest. Our original report says protesters were already dispersing and following police’s orders when they were arrested. Arrestees say officers of the Atlanta Police Department tackled, arrested, and jailed them at the Atlanta City Detention Center, charging them with traffic citations for “pedestrian in roadway,” despite it being a minor offense typically associated with jaywalking. The plaintiffs say the police used this charge to unlawfully interfere and suppress the protest due to their personal interest in Cop City’s construction.
“The arrests that night were not because we were engaging in any illegal activities,” says the plaintiffs’ statement in their press release. “It was a deliberate attempt to silence us. This criminalization of protest is aimed at preventing us from raising awareness about how city officials are compromising public land and tax dollars for the benefit of the Atlanta Police Foundation and its business associates. They profit at the expense of Atlanta’s watershed and the Weelaunee Forest.”
Since its passing, the opposition against Cop City has swelled beyond Atlanta, especially following the police shooting that killed 26-year-old climate activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán. Additionally, the plans for the facility keep changing: The original price tag of the facility advertised to constituents was $90 million, with $60 million coming from corporate donors via the APF and the other $30 million from taxpayer dollars. This summer, it was revealed that Cop City would actually cost more after the city approved $67 million for the project. Atlanta City Council approved this budget increase in June following over two years of protest and over 15 hours of public comment that was almost unanimously opposed to it that day.
The plaintiffs of this newest lawsuit are only a handful of those who have faced consequences for their opposition. In just the last 12 months, at least 42 people have been charged with domestic terrorism for their protest or affiliation with the Stop Cop City movement, and another 61 protesters are facing RICO charges. The arraignment for the RICO cases are on Mon., Nov. 6. Organizers have planned a rally that day at 8:30am, beginning at 72 Upper Alabama Street followed by a gathering outside of the Fulton County courthouse.