Study Hall: ‘Should I Support Causes that Break the Law?’

The ARD has covered the Stop Cop City campaign against a proposed police training center in Atlanta and encouraged readers to get involved. Now, the government is saying that the movement is a criminal conspiracy and activists have been indicted under RICO charges. What are the implications of the indictment, and what should we do? 

Prosecutors recently brought sweeping charges against 61 Cop City activists. They allege that everything from signing an anti-police slogan to buying a $11.91 bottle of glue were acts in support of a “criminal conspiracy” and “domestic terrorism” (New York). The shocking indictment, which you can read for yourself here, treats belief in “social solidarity” and practicing “mutual aid” as criminally suspect. The government is using RICO to target not only Cop City opponents but anyone who participated in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests or donated to a mutual aid fund. RICO, a law written to prosecute the Mafia, is now “used to charge political enemies” on the left and right (MSNBC). 

To put it plainly, this is an authoritarian attack on protest, political dissent, and community resistance to police brutality. If it succeeds, the consequences will be dire. Atlanta is even refusing to let its citizens vote on whether they want Cop City or not (MSN). If the government prevails, anti-racist and environmental activists will face decades in prison. And police from around the country will use Cop City to practice inflicting almost unimaginable levels of violence and harm.

The goal of the Cop City indictment isn’t just to lock up the people charged. It’s to discourage the broader community from supporting the movement. If we turn our backs now, political repression wins. 

It’s easy to flatter ourselves by imagining we definitely would’ve been at the forefront of social justice movements before our time if only we had been around. We can read about the Freedom Riders who went to the Jim Crow South or the rioters at Stonewall and think, I would have supported them! Though these movements were criminalized and despised in their time, I, an enlightened progressive looking back from 2023, would have known better! I would have helped!

These activists are celebrated… in retrospect. In their day, they were widely condemned as “extremists,” “radicals,” “lunatics,” and “violent” “outsider agitators.” They weren’t honored as social justice leaders for fighting for justice; they were persecuted for committing crimes. We can’t turn back time to know for sure if we would have supported them. Most people didn’t (Smithsonian). They were attacked not only by cops and Klansmen but by well-meaning liberals, respected journalists, elected politicians, and the full weight of the criminal justice system (Letter from Jail). 

What we can do is support those fighting for liberation today, who are facing the same attacks from the same institutions as those who came before us. Knowing about the repression and resistance taking place in Georgia right now, you have a choice: to turn away or to take bold action in solidarity with marginalized communities and activists under attack by their own government. 

I have a challenge for you. When I finish writing this Study Hall, I’m going to make a contribution to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. I challenge you to do the same, in an amount that’s feasible but significant for you, whether it’s $5 or $5,000. And I challenge you—yes, you—to go to Atlanta in November to block Cop City if you at all can, and to organize within your own community to support the movement regardless. I challenge you to live out the mission of The ARD: to not only learn about the harm that befalls marginalized communities but to take real, meaningful action to bring it to an end. 

If we support resistance, not just in thoughts and prayers but in actions and deeds, then the people will win. Cop City must never be built. 

1168 614 Team ARD
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