The very public arrest last week of activists opposing Atlanta’s proposed public safety center has fast become a new dividing line among Democrats. That divide could grow sharper with a vote on funding for the facility by the Atlanta City Council scheduled later today.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, a Democrat who is the project’s primary champion, is trying to rally City Council members to dedicate up to $67 million in city funding for the facility — more than double what supporters initially promised.
An enormous crowd of opponents is expected to pack City Hall for the vote, with testimony expected to last for hours. The fate of the proposal that once seemed like a sure thing is now far murkier, the AJC’s Riley Bunch and Brian Eason report.
Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC
Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC
And to highlight the rift even more, the Young Democrats of Georgia will hold a news conference at City Hall this morning to formally condemn the project.
Among the speakers: Group president Bryce Berry and DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry. An earlier press release from the group also said that City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari and state Rep. Ruwa Romman would attend, too, which was inaccurate.
It begs the question: Will last week’s arrests rally more Democrats against the proposed safety center, or will a vote today solidify support for the project’s promoters?
Credit: Daniel Varnado for the AJC
Credit: Daniel Varnado for the AJC
Beyond concerns raised by leading state-level Democratic lawmakers, U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock issued separate statements over the weekend demanding more details from Georgia authorities about the arrests of the activists. The G.B.I. has accused the three people charged of facilitating and encouraging “domestic terrorism.”
Warnock warned that state tactics “can have a chilling effect on nonviolent, constitutionally-protected free speech activities.” And Ossoff said the arrests of “Georgians reputedly engaged in legal aid activities demands scrutiny.”
Warnock in his statement also said he plans to follow up with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which in a May 24 bulletin about “domestic violent extremists” said some of the protests surrounding the Atlanta facility had been used to justify criminal activity. That bulletin provided some of the state’s justification of the three arrests last week.
Kamau Franklin, a community organizer who opposes the center, contended the tide is shifting.
“The fact that these two Democratic senators have released this critical statement should give pause to the Atlanta City Council before they mistakenly approve” the financing for the complex, he said.
FAR RIGHT FUMING. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has kicked up some serious blowback from her usual pals on the far right after voting for the debt ceiling deal last week, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with President Joe Biden.
Conservative talk radio host John Fredericks was so incensed by Greene’s vote for the bill that he talked up a potential, if unlikely, challenger to U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from far-right activist Laura Loomer on his show late last week.
Loomer is a Florida resident and Trump supporter who has lost two Congressional races in the last three years. She has also tangled with Greene before.
But just after the debt ceiling bill passed the House, she posted a poll to Twitter asking if she should “move one state over to Georgia” to primary Greene in her 14th Congressional district. Loomer later posted a follow-up note declaring, “I think I need to start looking for a place in Rome, Georgia.”
According to Fredericks, “Everybody knows one thing about Laura Loomer, we got to take her seriously, because she’s going to outwork anybody, and she has the ability to raise money. So if I’m Marjorie Taylor Greene, I’m taking this threat … seriously.”
All of that followed a post from pro-Trump provocateur Steve Bannon, who posted to the Gettr social media platform a call for primary challenges to Greene and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, who also supported the final bill, from candidates who are “REAL MAGA.”
TOWN HALL HECKLER. Just after U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene voted for the debt ceiling deal last week, she headed to her district for a town hall meeting to talk all about it.
While Greene released a clip of her getting a standing ovation at the Cobb County event late last week, more video has surfaced with very different feedback. At the meeting, Greene expounded on calling the deal a “(expletive) sandwich.”
She also read questions from the audience, including reading from a card that said, “You are a true American hero.” That’s when a man in the audience yelled out, “Crazy! Crazy is what you are!”
Greene’s response to the gentleman, who was wearing a veterans’ cap, “Thank you, sir, and thank you for your service.”
MCCARTHY’S REVENGE. U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde has seen some success on the House floor, passing legislation rebuking criminal justice and policing changes implemented by the District of Columbia’s city council.
But a bill he is sponsoring to prohibit the federal government from regulating the use of pistol braces might be in trouble, he told conservative activist Steve Bannon recently. And it all has to do with his opposition to the agreement Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with President Joe Biden to lift the debt ceiling.
Clyde, R-Athens, said Republican leadership told him that his pistol brace legislation would run into trouble unless he supported a procedural measure preceding the final vote on the debt ceiling legislation — passage of the rule that outlined debate on the compromise agreement.
“I was told by leadership that if I didn’t vote for the rule, that it would be very difficult to bring my bill to the floor,” Clyde told Bannon.
He voted no the day after that reported conversation, both on the rule and on the debt ceiling legislation itself.
The gun store owner later shared a clip from the interview on his Twitter page with a caption that made it clear he holds defending the Second Amendment higher than making nice with House leadership.
“I’m here to defend our #2A freedoms — not cower to the Swamp,” the post said.
It’s unclear if Clyde and other hard-right conservatives will return from a long weekend break still miffed at McCarthy over the debt limit compromise.
Remember, at any time any single member of the House can make a motion on the floor that would lead to a vote on whether to oust McCarthy as speaker. But U.S. Rep. Ralph Northam, R-S.C., who led the original opposition to McCarthy, said late last week it’s not clear who else in the caucus could get 218 votes for Speaker.
TRUMP TIME. After former President Donald Trump posted a congratulatory note about North Korea’s despotic leader, Gov. Brian Kemp and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued notably similar statements.
Kemp delivered his most significant direct rebuke of Trump yet, writing that: “Taking our country back from Joe Biden does not start with congratulating North Korea’s murderous dictator.”
Hours later, the Florida governor was asked about Trump’s praise of North Korea’s election to a World Health Organization post.
“I was surprised to see that. I mean I think one, I think Kim Jong Un is a murderous dictator,” DeSantis told Fox News, adding sharp words for the international health group, too.
Several political analysts offered hot-take analysis questioning whether the word-for-word responses suggest an alliance between the two second-term Southern governors. More likely it’s a sign of the evolving anti-Trump wing growing bolder.
PENCE COMING. Former Vice President Mike Pence avoided what would have surely been a rocky welcome at the Georgia GOP convention with a late decision to scrap his visit scheduled for next week. But he’s returning to the state later this summer to what should be a much warmer audience.
Erick Erickson, the WSB commentator, posted over the weekend that Pence will speak at the Gathering, a three-day conservative event in Atlanta that could become a key stop for GOP candidates not named Donald Trump.
Erickson is an organizer of the August confab, and he has also invited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott to promote their White House campaigns at the conference.
Left off the list of invitees is Trump, who has a roller coaster history with Erickson. Once an outspoken member of the Never Trump movement, Erickson has at times fiercely defended the former president and at other times leveled scathing attacks at him. More recently, he’s taken the latter approach.
In 2015, the RedState Gathering in Atlanta that Erickson organized drew most of the Republican presidential contenders — with the notable exception of Trump, who was banned from the conference after his debate run-in with then-Fox host Megyn Kelly.
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
- The U.S. House will hold a series of floor votes tonight.
- The Senate returns Tuesday.
- President Joe Biden will meet with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark at the White House and then welcome the Kansas City Chiefs for a celebration of their Super Bowl victory.
DOG OF THE DAY. As a member of the Georgia Senate, State Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Alto, knows a thing or two about someone’s bark being louder than their bite.
But she’s gotten her real experience with tough talkers from Max and Beau, the Echols’ goldendoodle and miniature goldendoodle. Along with being her son’s best pals and the Jaemor Farms’ family pooches, Echols reports of these two: “While their barks sound vicious, they will absolutely lick you to death.” You’ve been warned, Jolt Nation.
Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and cats on a cat-by-cat basis to firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM us on Twitter @MurphyAJC.
AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.