ATLANTA — Six people arrested for domestic terrorism appeared in a virtual Fulton County court Monday. They are accused of being part of protests in Atlanta that turned violent over the weekend – all related to unrest over the planned construction of a new public safety training facility southeast of the Atlanta city limits.
One by one – the six protesters appeared before a judge at the Fulton County Jail. They'd been arrested during protest marches that crossed through downtown, damaging property and setting fire to an Atlanta police cruiser.
They were protesting the deadly law enforcement shooting of another protester last week at the old prison farm site, where the Atlanta Police Foundation aims to build a new public safety training academy. The protester who died had fired a gunshot, injuring a Georgia State Patrol trooper before other officers returned fire, according to investigators.
"I’m not sure it happened the way I hoped it would happen," said Kamau Franklin of the Saturday protests. Franklin has been among the leaders of the movement he calls "Stop Cop City."
"We had people who were both sad and angry that a friend of theirs, someone who I think a lot of those young folks knew or worked with or cared about, who they shared some politics with, was killed by the police," Franklin said.
11Alive asked if it was inconsistent to use violence to oppose police violence. Franklin suggested the question lacked the right perspective.
"I think it’s the wrong frame to look at it through," he said. "They’re only concentrated on a fire or when they see a police car burning or they see property damage – and you cannot solve the issue of the reaction without dealing with the violence that started the actions in the first place."
In court, a judge granted bond to two of the six charged in the Saturday night protest. One activist told the court through his attorney he was homeless; the other said he lived in Decatur with his parents. The others, denied bond as flight risks, were from out-of-state.
Seven other people arrested at the training site last week were also from out of state, and critics have seized on that to try to question the community support for the protests.
Franklin said they misunderstand.
"A great deal of the people are from Atlanta and the surrounding areas of Atlanta. But we welcome people who come from outside. Calling people outsiders or outside agitators – is to be quite frank, the language of racial segregationists. That’s where that language was picked up from," Franklin said.
While correct about that history, the question is whether Franklin and backers can "Stop Cop City" in a world where crime remains a top-of-mind concern.