Protesters gathered Wednesday evening outside the DeKalb County jail to proclaim that the state’s arrest of three critics of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on charges of money laundering and charity fraud was an effort to silence and strike fear into other demonstrators.
The plan to build a police training center on an 85-acre wooded property in DeKalb County has garnered protests over the past year. The conflict attracted national attention after a Georgia State Patrol trooper in January fatally shot protester Manuel Teran at the training site. Police say Teran shot at officers first, wounding one, before they returned fire.
Jasmine Burnett, a volunteer with Community Movement Builders who attended Wednesday’s demonstration, said she wanted to make clear that “the people of Atlanta and DeKalb County are opposed to the state’s attempts to repress” organizers of the opposition.
Police on Wednesday raided a home owned by Marlon Scott Kautz, 39, and Adele Maclean, 42, on Mayson Avenue.
Kautz and Maclean — along with Savannah D. Patterson, 30, of Savannah — were each charged with money laundering and charity fraud for alleged actions taken as executives with the nonprofit Network for Strong Communities, which in turn support the nonprofit Defend the Atlanta Forest, “a group classified by the United States Department of Homeland Security as Domestic Violent Extremists,” according to arrest warrants.
“We want to make it clear that we’re in support of Marlon, Savannah and Adele,” Burnett said at the protest.
Burnett, like others in the group, decried what they say is the state’s assertion that having funds to use to help pay bail is in any way illegal.
“Bail funds have been around since the ’60s,” she said. “They serve a very important purpose.”
Former prosecutor Alex Joseph agreed.
“I am alarmed at what I see is blatant overcharging,” Joseph said. “Here, they conducted a raid.”
Police say the three arrested Wednesday used money collected by the nonprofit for personal expenses and used another organization to launder $40,000.
Their first court appearances are planned for Friday.
The Atlanta City Council is expected to vote Monday on legislation to fund $30 million of the training center construction, plus an additional $1.2 million over 30 years to lease the center for training. Construction on the property is ongoing, with Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum expecting to move into the facility by December 2024.
Earlier this month, nearly 300 people packed the City Council chambers for the public comment period of its meeting, and spoke out against the 85-acre public safety training facility. Council President Doug Shipman at times struggled to keep the chamber under control as the audience cheered for speakers.
— Photojournalist Jenni Girtman and staff writer Jozsef Papp contributed to this article.