Three activists involved in the Defend Atlanta Forest movement are facing charges of felony intimidation of an officer of the state and misdemeanor stalking for placing flyers on mailboxes in a neighborhood in Bartow County, Georgia, about 40 miles from Atlanta. The detainees were held for days in solitary confinement, a lawyer working on the case and a relative of one of the activists told The Intercept.
The flyer, according to the lawyer, named a police officer who lives in the area where the activists were arrested and alleged he was connected to the killing in January of forest defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán during a multi-agency raid on the Atlanta Forest protest encampment.
A forensics report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about guns fired during Tortuguita’s killing named six state patrol officers: Bryland Myers, Jerry Parrish, Jonathan Salcedo, Mark Jonathan Lamb, Ronaldo Kegel, and Royce Zah. According to public records, one of the officers named lives in the area where the activists posted flyers. The report was obtained by the Atlanta Community Press Collective, an abolitionist nonprofit media group, through an open records request.
Julia Dupuis, an activist named Charley who asked that their last name be withheld for security concerns, and an activist named Wednesday were arrested at a gas station outside the town of Cartersville on Friday. According to their lawyer, Lyra Foster, the activists drove once through the neighborhood and placed flyers on numerous mailboxes without exiting their vehicle or approaching any residents. Foster said Wednesday was a passenger in the car and not posting flyers.
If found guilty, they could each face up to 20 years in prison.
“They were not handing out flyers, they were actually extremely careful in trying to avoid doing anything illegal,” Foster told The Intercept. “They posted the flyers on mailboxes, they did not even get out of the van to put flyers on the doors, and did not open the mailboxes because they thought that was potentially illegal.”
“They posted the flyers on mailboxes, they did not even get out of the van to put flyers on the doors.”
The attorney added that the activists “certainly had no intention to intimidate the officer” and “were trying to spread awareness about the police killing.”
All three arrestees are being held at Bartow County Jail; all were denied bond by a magistrate judge on Monday. None of the defendants has a criminal history, nor is there any allegation of violence in the current charges. “Denying them bond was extreme, in my opinion,” Foster said.
According to Foster as well as Dupuis’s brother, Nicholas Kees Dupuis, the activists were held in solitary confinement until Tuesday; no reasons were given by the jail, according to the attorney.
Spokespeople for the Bartow County sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the Georgia State Patrol.
Last month, an official autopsy report revealed that Tortuguita, 26, was shot at least 57 times when police stormed the protest encampment. Repressive policing has escalated in recent months against the movement to stop a $90 million police training center — “Cop City” — from being built atop Atlanta’s forest. Forty-two movement participants currently face state domestic terrorism charges for allegedly engaging in minor property damage – the evidence for which is as flimsy as police citing mud on protesters’ shoes.
Organizers trying to stop Cop City see these latest arrests as part of a pattern of extreme overreach and efforts to silence outrage over Tortuguita’s killing.
“Ever since state police killed Tortuguita, their top priority has been to keep the situation quiet. Now that the public is calling attention to it, police are doubling down,” said Marlon Kautz, an Atlanta-based organizer with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provides bail funds and legal support to protesters. “It’s exactly the same strategy they’ve used before against Stop Cop City protesters: wave around extreme charges, throw activists in jail without bail, and hope the problem goes away.”
Nicholas Dupuis told The Intercept that his family learned of his 24-year-old sister’s arrest upon receiving a call from animal control in Cartersville, explaining that they had her dog, as she had been arrested. While Julia Dupuis, a freelance writer and anti-racist activist, is primarily based in Massachusetts, she had spent a number of months in Atlanta as a part of the Stop Cop City movement.
According to their attorney, Charley is a camp counselor who works with targeted communities in Atlanta, and Wednesday is an Atlanta-based artist and activist. Both have Atlanta addresses, according to Bartow County Jail records.
“Ever since state police killed Tortuguita, their top priority has been to keep the situation quiet. Now that the public is calling attention to it, police are doubling down.”
Officials in Atlanta, including the police, have sought to demonize forest defenders as “outside agitators”; the attack, historically used to discredit civil rights struggles, has failed to gain popular purchase. The movement, which made a wide call for supporters to join, is explicit in seeking to connect the local fight to stop Cop City and save the Atlanta forest with national and international movements against environmental racism and police violence.
Meanwhile, the Cop City project is hardly local: It is being funded by numerous multinational corporations, including Wells Fargo and Bank of America. The Atlanta Police Department told the Atlanta City Council that it intends to recruit 43 percent of trainees for the planned facility from out of state.
Last month, the Atlanta Community Press Collective released the names of the six officers identified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in connection with Tortuguita’s killing and published a link to the GBI report. GBI spokesperson Nelly Miles said the agency had not released the officers’ names and cited an exemption under state public records law used to redact documents. The names were not redacted in the version of the report obtained by the Atlanta Community Press Collective, which said it got the document from the Dekalb County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“They carefully exercised their First Amendment rights and left the area,” Foster, the attorney, said of the activists’ distribution of the flyers. “An unarmed activist died in a hail of gunfire in the woods and now the state says it’s felony intimidation to even talk about that.”
Update: May 3, 2023
This story has been updated to include a statement from Lyra Foster made after publication stating that the activist Wednesday was a passenger in the car and not posting flyers.