A legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild was arrested and charged with domestic terrorism while monitoring a Sunday night demonstration against an Atlanta police training facility that opponents have dubbed “Cop City.”
Thomas Jurgens is an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the civil-rights group confirmed on Monday. Jurgens also works with the National Lawyers Guild, which monitors protests. Jurgens was acting as a legal observer at the time of his arrest in Atlanta, the NLG said in a statement. He is one of more than 40 people charged with domestic terrorism in connection to protests against Cop City, raising concerns from civil liberties advocates.
“An employee at the SPLC was arrested while acting—and identifying—as a legal observer on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG),” the SPLC said in a statement. “The employee is an experienced legal observer, and their arrest is not evidence of any crime, but of heavy-handed law enforcement intervention against protesters.”
The proposed police training facility—a $90 million, 85-acre project on the current site of an Atlanta forest—has been the subject of long-running opposition from environmentalists, racial justice activists, and religious leaders. Tensions escalated at the proposed construction site in late 2022, when police began a series of arrests on domestic terrorism charges, even though many of the defendants are not accused of any illegal activity beyond misdemeanor trespassing, Grist reported at the time.
In January, police shot and killed the activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán, whom they accused of shooting at them. The case is currently under investigation, but has fueled a fresh wave of demonstrations, including a Sunday night concert in the forest. [Continue reading…]