SPLC Lawyer among the Dozens Arrested for Attacking Cops at Atlanta Training Facility

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) staff attorney Thomas Jurgens was among the dozen of rioters arrested following a violent attack on police at the proposed site of the Atlanta Police Foundation’s training facility, located a few miles south of the city.

The organization confirmed Jurgens was arrested on Monday casting blame on local law enforcement for the situation.

“This is part of a months-long escalation of policing tactics against protesters and observers who oppose the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest to build a police training facility,” a statement obtained by a local news outlet reported.

“The SPLC has and will continue to urge de-escalation 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.”

Jurgens previously served as a legal intern in Dekalb County’s public defender office and as an assistant public defender for the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, according to his LinkedIn profile. A family member of Jurgens confirmed with a local journalist that the lawyer had been charged with domestic terrorism following the violence.

A list of the arrested suspects published by the Atlanta Police Department (APD) on Monday revealed only two were from Georgia. The vast majority hailed from other states. Two of the rioters came from other countries.

The demonstrators “changed into black clothing and entered the construction area and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police officers,” the Atlanta Police Department noted in a statement.

The site, dubbed by protesters as “Cop City,” is an 85-acre project set on land in DeKalb County’s South River Forest.

A concert held by protesters in a nearby section of the forest turned destructive as festival-goers began uprooting sections of the construction site on Sunday.

“Music is not a crime, protest is not a crime. The first amendment doesn’t go away when a single person sets a fire,” the Atlanta Solidarity Fund tweeted following the events of the day.

Another group, Defend the Atlanta Forest, denounced law enforcement who labeled protesters “violent agitators,” insisting that the 35 individuals arrested were “but peaceful concert goers who were nowhere near the demonstration.”

Echoing statements made by the department in late January, Atlanta police chief Darin Schierbaum told reporters on Sunday: “We continue to see a number of individuals not from Atlanta, Georgia, that are present tonight undertaking criminal activities to destabilize the construction of a fire and police training center.”

Environmental activists have protested the construction of the police facility for months, citing the need to preserve the broader forest alongside concerns that Atlanta’s law enforcement has been militarized. However, according to the city, the training center “will support high-quality, community-oriented training for police, fire and E-911 personnel.”

In January, one of the climate activists, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (“Tortuguita”), was killed during a violent confrontation with local police seeking to remove protesters. Terán reportedly shot at an officer, prompting law enforcement to return fire and kill him.

Terán’s mother, Belkis, dismissed the police version of as fiction, insisting that her son was not violent. “I will go to the US to defend Manuel’s memory,” Belkis, who lives in Panama told The Guardian at the time. “I’m convinced that he was assassinated in cold blood.”

Following Terán’s death, environmental activists, including members of Antifa, descended on Atlanta, shattering windows, destroying a police car, and vandalizing property. Of the six individuals charged with domestic violence in the aftermath, five of them came from out of state.

Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp condemned the demonstrations at the time.

“Violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest. They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be prosecuted fully,” Kemp tweeted.

However, activists maintained that there was a difference between their tactics and how they were portrayed in the media.

“Destruction of material is fundamentally different from violence. All reported acts appear to be explicitly targeted against the financial backers & goons of the Atlanta Police Foundation, a shady nonprofit that funnels weapons and military gear into our city to wage war on black and brown folks,” a spokesperson for the anti-police campaign told one local news station.


More from National Review