In Atlanta, a judge has denied bond for 8 of the people indiscriminately arrested at a music festival against the proposed “Cop City” police training facility in the Weelaunee Forest. Jailed since March 5, they are charged with domestic terrorism based on scant evidence like muddy clothes or simply being in the area at the time of the festival. We’re joined by Micah Herskind, an Atlanta community organizer, who calls the charges “political prosecutions” and a blatant “attempt to repress this social movement that is trying to stop Cop City.”
AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show with an update on protests against Cop City in Atlanta and a dramatic hearing Thursday, where a judge denied bond for many of the people jailed since March 5th, when they were indiscriminately arrested at a music festival against the proposed police training facility, would be the largest in the country — it’s in the Weelaunee Forest — and accused of vandalism and arson at a construction site a mile away. They’re charged with domestic terrorism, based on evidence like muddy clothes.
One of those arrested was longtime New York City activist Priscilla Grim, an editor of The Occupied Wall Street Journal, whose daughter Sophia told The Indypendent, “We’re so grateful and appreciative for all the support we have received. It’s made things so much less stressful.”
For an update, we’re joined by Micah Herskind, a local community organizer in Atlanta, Georgia.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! Micah, talk about these charges of domestic terrorism and who is being held in jail and not released on bond?
MICAH HERSKIND: Absolutely. So, at the end of the day, these charges are political prosecution. So, 23 people were arrested at the Weelaunee Forest Festival. This was at the very beginning of the week of action. As you said, there was an action that happened about a mile away from this site, and instead of showing up to that site, police showed up at this music festival, where people were enjoying music, you know, having a good time, and mass arrested people.
Now there are — ever since March 5th, there were 22 people being held in jail without bond. Just yesterday, they had new bond hearings, where about 12 folks got out earlier on consent bonds, which means they didn’t have to pay. Eight people were denied bond yesterday, and two people were granted $25,000 bonds.
The folks who were denied bond were not denied bond for any specific evidence other than, as you said, having mud on their clothes and their shoes, you know, having wet pants. You know, we’ve seen earlier affidavits and warrants that have said that folks are known members of a prison abolitionist movement. And so, at the end of the day, you know, these are really just about trying to repress this social movement that is trying to stop Cop City.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is a social movement that goes across the spectrum in Atlanta right? I mean, you’ve got religious people. You’ve got environmentalists who are fighting this. You’ve got Indigenous people who are fighting this. And you have people who are deeply concerned about issues of police brutality who are fighting this. And then you have the recent police killing of Tortuguita, who was one of the activists, and an independent autopsy just came out that suggested that Tortuguita was sitting cross-legged with their hands in the air when they were shot.
MICAH HERSKIND: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so, you know, the state has yet to release its autopsy still, even though we’re now months out from this killing. But this independent autopsy showed — you know, Tortuguita’s mother, speaking at a press conference, sat down and showed the position that this autopsy found that her child was killed in, which was essentially, you know, looking like this, sitting cross-legged. You know, there were bullets through their palms. And so, yeah, you know, the more information that comes out, the clearer it is that just as these prosecutions are political prosecutions, the killing of Torguguita was a political assassination, where police marched into the force and killed somebody, and then, you know, most likely lied to cover it up.
AMY GOODMAN: The Indypendent's John Tarleton reported that “The conditions in the DeKalb County Jail women's unit are poor Sophia said” — one of the daughters of those being held — “sparse food, overflowing toilets, no personal visits due to short staffing, paid telephone and video call services that barely function and transgender arrestees being assigned to areas that don’t correspond to their gender. The men’s unit … reported to be even worse,” she said.
Your thoughts on how people are able to communicate? And, you know, we just did a story — we interviewed Ben Crump about the 10 people, seven of them police officers, who were arrested on murder charges for killing a mentally challenged man at a hospital in Virginia. They’re out on bond. These activists are charged with domestic terrorism and continue to be held.
MICAH HERSKIND: Yes. They’re being held, and again, you know, really without evidence. During these bond hearings, it was clear that the prosecution has not yet put together any case. They are using these fallbacks. You know, one of the examples that they gave was that people were wearing black, and that that was evident of playing on the team, of being on the side of the protest. And so, you know, the charges are all really shaky. There’s really no legitimate evidence that’s been put forward.
In terms of the jail conditions — right now this is true across the country, but especially in Atlanta — across the metro Atlanta area, our jails are in an absolute crisis. There are jail deaths happening across the metro area, really frequently. The DeKalb County Jail, many parts don’t have running water, is what we’re hearing from inside. Toilets are broken. There are freezing temperatures.
And, you know, despite all of that, there have been vigils that organizers have been hosting outside of the jail as a way to communicate with folks inside. Shortly after their arrests, there was a large vigil that was planned, and things were projected on the jail, and folks were able to yell across the walls of the jail. A father of someone who had been arrested was able to speak directly to his child. And so, there have also been really beautiful moments of solidarity, and folks on the outside making sure that we’re supporting folks inside.
AMY GOODMAN: Micah Herskind, I want to thank you for being with us, local community organizer in Atlanta, Georgia. I want to thank you so much for being with us.
That does it for our show. On Monday, Democracy Now!'s Juan González is moderating an online panel on “Chicago's 2023 Mayoral Race: Reclaiming Harold Washington’s Multiracial Coalition.” Details at democracynow.org.
And a very happy birthday to Nermeen Shaikh!
Also, Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for a digital fellow. Learn more and apply at democracynow.org.
Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Sonyi Lopez. Our executive director, Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Denis Moynihan, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo. I’m Amy Goodman.