They present themselves as rebels against the system, fighting to preserve a piece of local woodland.
Yet many of the terrorist suspects arrested and charged over occupying government property and the violent attack in downtown Atlanta on Saturday are children of pampered privilege from out of state.
Hundreds of far-left activists, including Antifa, had gathered on Saturday evening at the Five Points neighborhood in downtown Atlanta to protest the death of their comrade who died in a shootout with police earlier in the week at an occupation south of the city.
On Jan. 18, Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, of Tallahasse, Fla., shot and severely injured a Georgia State Patrol trooper at the so-called “autonomous zone” before being killed by returning fire from police. The year-and-a-half long occupation is at the heart of the “Stop Cop City” movement to shut down the construction of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a proposed training site for law enforcement and first responders. They hate it because it’s a police center, but also claim that they are protecting a forest.
At Saturday’s gathering, masked militants dressed head to toe in black marched in the streets, shouting: “If you build it, we will burn it.”
They then smashed up businesses, cars and the Atlanta Police Foundation building. An Atlanta police cruiser was set on fire with an explosive. Livestream videos recorded at the scene showed the violent extremists working in an organized manner, such as using a large vigil banner to hide the rioters who torched the vehicle and grabbing large rocks from a shared bag to use as projectiles.
Some of those arrested represent the sort of professional leftist agitator who have popped up across the country after George Floyd’s death:
Francis Carroll, 22, of Maine
Carroll was already out on bail for a domestic terrorism arrest at the Atlanta autonomous zone last month. He is the son of a yacht-sailing, multi-millionaire family and hails from the wealthy Maine city of Kennebunkport, also home to former president George W. Bush.
Carroll, who lived in his parent’s mansion before going to Atlanta, was among six people arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, aggravated assault and other crimes on Dec. 13 following a string of property attacks around the area, a carjacking and assaults on officers. They were all bailed out by activists who crowdfunded their legal defense using Twitter.
Madeleine “Henri” Feola, 22, of Spokane, Wash.
Feola is a trans nonbinary activist and 2022 alumna of Oberlin College, where they studied archaeological studies with a focus on decolonization. They’re from the wealthy Portland, Ore., suburb of Happy Valley before relocating to Spokane, Wash. Feola authored a February 2022 blog post on the American Scientist titled, “It’s Time to Stop Gatekeeping Medical Transition.”
Emily Kathryn Murphy, 37, of Gross Isle, Mich.
Murphy is a middle-class vegan activist who previously served as the at-large chair for the Chicago chapter of Al Gore’s “Climate Reality Project” organization before becoming further radicalized into eco-ideology. “I have been vegan five and a half years now, and, no matter how much explaining I do, my own family still doesn’t fully understand what being vegan means,” Murphy complained once in a blog post for the group.
Ivan James Ferguson, 23, of Henderson, Nev.
Ferguson is a 23-year-old award-winning classically trained clarinettist from Henderson, Nev. who studied at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Before becoming radicalized, Ferguson regularly performed in classical concerts in California and Nevada.
They’ve each been charged with: felony domestic terrorism, felony interference with government property, felony first-degree arson, felony second-degree criminal damage, riot, unlawful assembly, willful obstruction of a law enforcement officer and pedestrian in roadway.
At an emergency press conference following the riot, Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens revealed a shocking discovery: “Some of them were found with explosives on them. You heard that correctly, explosives.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies have tried multiple times to end the violent occupation of the woods. Yet militants have regrouped and continued to occupy the area, heeding the call shared on anarchist sites for comrades to “defend the Atlanta forest.” At the first police raid in May 2022, police were met with Molotov cocktails. The GBI also said it found gas masks and edged weapons at the raid.
Among the previous arrests were more privileged protesters:
* Teresa Yue Shen, a Brooklyn woman arrested on Jan. 18 who graduated from Barnard College before working at Reuters and CNN, according to her LinkedIn. She is charged with domestic terrorism.
* Abigail Elizabeth Skapyak, of Minneapolis. Skapyak is a former Justice Department intern who graduated from American University. She was arrested on May 17.
* Marianna Hoitt-Lange, a violinist who graduated from New York University. She was arrested on May 17.
* Madeleine “Matthias” Gunther Kodat, of Philadelphia, is the daughter of the former provost and dean of faculty at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis. who was arrested on May 17.
In November, rioters tried to set a man on fire who drove into the area.
“It seemed to me like they were going to burn the truck with me in it,” Richard Porter told 11Alive News at the time. He was forced to flee for his life as his truck was torched. In early December, two under-construction homes next to the occupation were burned to the ground. The same month, another raid resulted in six being arrested and charged with domestic terrorism.
Serena Hertal, of Sun Valley, Idaho, was one of the militants charged with domestic terrorism, aggravated assault and criminal trespass. She graduated from Pitzer College, a private liberal arts university in Claremont, Calif. where yearly costs are over $82,000.In addition to the weekend violence in Atlanta over the shooting death of the gunman, far-left sympathizers from around the country have held solidarity direct actions and urged retributive violence. “Scenes from the Atlanta Forest,” a collective that represents the autonomous zone, called for “reciprocal violence” against police in a heavily shared post on Twitter.
In solidarity with the Atlanta occupation, the trans child of Democratic House Minority Whip Katherine Clark was arrested for alleged vandalism and assault of an officer. Jared “Riley” Dowell, 23, was charged with assault by means of a dangerous weapon, destruction of injury of personal property and damage of property by graffiti.
In Lansing, militants attacked a bank, writing, “Stop cop city.” Six were arrested. A Portland UPS center was also purportedly set on fire, with a claim of responsibility posted online saying it was retribution over their comrade’s death.
“We call for more actions directly toward the companies that are donating to and funding the Cop City project in Atlanta. Forest defenders have a right to stay in the forest, and groups will continue to retaliate until the Cop City Project is canceled,” reads the anonymous statement.