Massachusetts Chapter of the NLG Condemns the Recent Arrests in Atlanta, Georgia

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) strongly condemns the brutal and provocative arrests of environmental activists and the unnecessarily harsh charges brought against the Cop City protestors in Atlanta.

On March 5, 2023, police and other law enforcement personnel arrested some 35 people, including NLG Legal Observers, who attended a peaceful solidarity music festival in Atlanta in support of ongoing protests against the construction of a huge law enforcement training site (Cop City) in the middle of the Weelaunee Forest. These arrests, like others recently made, targeted protestors who were defending their communities from the significant harm to the environment that would result from the unnecessary building of Cop City in an unspoiled natural forest. Despite the fact that the protestors were seeking to protect people from the well-established dangers of unnecessary environmental destruction, two dozen of the protestors were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, a charge that was not even applied to most of the January 6th rioters. Rather than recognizing the protestors’ rights to try to protect the Weelaunee Forest and their communities, the police and the prosecutors have chosen to characterize them as somehow being a danger to society.

As has too often happened, the police and the prosecutors are once again targeting people who are Black, Indigenous, or from other communities of color and their supporters; concerned people who are acting to protect their communities from the dangers of environmental destruction and who believe that the millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on Cop City could be put to much better use. To denounce as “terrorists” these protestors who are acting to protect their communities from harm is a perversion of justice. The charge is enormously out of proportion to any alleged offense and clearly intended to chill and intimidate and stop even lawful protests. In contrast, the ongoing police actions of brutality and repression of dissent and protest is what harms communities.

We particularly condemn the arrest of NLG Legal Observers who are trained to witness and record abusive police conduct toward protestors, thus upholding their fundamental constitutional rights to assembly and free speech. There is absolutely no excuse for the arrest of such Observers.