Unusual suspect among arrested ‘domestic terrorists’
Authorities in the US state of Georgia have arrested 23 people and charged them with “domestic terrorism” after what they described as a “coordinated attack” on an Atlanta site where a police training center was under construction. Among those arrested is a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group advising the FBI on extremism.
Almost every rioter arrested was from out of state, including two foreign nationals – one French and one Canadian. One of the two Georgians involved was identified on Monday as Thomas Jurgens, a staff attorney with the SPLC, a self-styled civil rights organization.
“This wasn’t about a public training center; this was about anarchy,” Atlanta police told reporters on Sunday evening, describing how “violent agitators” used the cover of a music festival to attack the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center construction site.
The rioters changed into all-black clothes, breached the site, and attacked law enforcement officers with “large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks,” the police said, providing a video of the incident from the security cameras.
BREAKING: @Atlanta_Police released the footage of the violent #Antifa@defendATLforest attack on police & the construction site of the Public Safety Training Center. The attackers are masked, & they came with explosive fireworks & firebombs. The officers https://t.co/s9iLQWowj1… https://t.co/yT6tFnrdBZpic.twitter.com/C0mtL4MRQw— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) March 6, 2023
An activist collective going by the name ‘Defend the Atlanta Forest’ has been trying to block the construction of what they dubbed ‘Cop City’ for months. Critics have called them ‘Treehouse Antifa’ for their tactic of camping in the trees marked to be cleared.
“Cop City will never be a legitimate project,” the organization said in a statement on Sunday evening, as quoted by the local outlet WSB-TV. “We stand steadfast in our conviction to build a new world in which all people are safe from police terror.”
The discovery of an SPLC staffer among the ‘Antifa’ made waves, however. “Yikes,” Congressman Rich McCormick, a Georgia Republican, tweeted in response. His colleague from North Carolina, Dan Bishop, wondered if the SPLC would now list itself as a “hate group.”
The SPLC runs a ‘hate watch’ program and has been advising US authorities for years on who it considers ‘hate groups’ and domestic terrorists, while avoiding any mention of ‘Antifa’ and its various affiliates.
In a letter made public in mid-2018, the FBI described it as “a well-known, established and credible” organization that has provided briefings and advice since 2009. The FBI confirmed it “continues to have a relationship with the SPLC,” even though it is supposed to reevaluate relations with outside groups “as necessary to ensure the appropriateness of any interaction.”
In June 2018, the SPLC made a public apology and paid over $3 million for defaming Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz as an “anti-Muslim extremist” promoting “hate-based violence.”