An Atlanta attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, among the 23 people arrested after violence erupted at the future site of a public safety training center, was a victim of “heavy-handed law enforcement intervention against protesters,” the nonprofit said.
Thomas Webb Jurgens, 28, was arrested Sunday and charged with domestic terrorism, Atlanta police said. Jurgens was among those charged after protesters threw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at officers and torched construction equipment at the site of the planned center.
Jurgens was working at the time of his arrest, according to the SPLC.
On Tuesday, Jurgens was granted a $5,000 bond during his first court appearance. He was released from the DeKalb jail late Tuesday, booking records showed. Many others arrested were denied bond and remained in jail Wednesday.
SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang released a statement after Jurgens was released.
“We are pleased that the DeKalb County assistant district attorney (ADA) agreed to a consent bond for Tom Jurgens,” Huang said. “As we previously stated, Tom was performing a public service, documenting potential violations of protesters’ rights. We are outraged that police officers present at the protest refused to acknowledge Tom’s role as a legal observer and instead chose to arrest him. We are confident that the evidence will demonstrate he was a peaceful legal observer.”
The latest statement came a day after the SPLC first blasted officers for arresting Jurgens.
“An employee at the SPLC was arrested while acting — and identifying — as a legal observer on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG),” a statement on social media said. “The employee is an experienced legal observer, and their arrest is not evidence of any crime, but of heavy-handed law enforcement intervention against protesters.”
According to the State Bar of Georgia, Jurgens was admitted in March 2021 after attending law school at the University of Georgia.
“The SPLC has and will continue to urge deescalation of violence and police use of force against Black, brown and indigenous communities — working in partnership with these communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements and advance the human rights of all people,” the statement said.
Only two of the nearly two dozen arrested have Georgia addresses, DeKalb County jail records showed. Jurgens is one of them. Detainees hail from as far away as France and Canada.
The National Lawyers Guild also issued a statement after Sunday’s incident, calling the arrests “part of ongoing state repression and violence against racial and environmental justice protesters, who are fighting to defend their communities from the harms of militarized policing and environmental degradation.”
The FBI said Monday that those arrested following Sunday’s violence could also federal charges.
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