Friday, September 29, 2023

As of noon, 25,000 UAW members will be striking against the Detroit Three automakers

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance

Two more plants, employing 7,000 workers, are joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike at noon Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain announced Friday morning on Facebook Live. This brings the total number of workers who will have walked off the job to 25,000.

The strike against Detroit Three auto manufacturers Ford, General Motors and Stellantis started two weeks ago after contract negotiations failed.

The UAW strike begins and UAW President Shawn Fain talks to picketing workers at Ford-owned Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan the night of September 14, 2023. (photo: Anna Liz Nichols)

Fain said as he was gearing up for the planned livestream, Stellantis showed progress in negotiating with the union for a better contract, so the union did not target additional plants at the company.

Fain did call on Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, as well as GM’s Lansing Delta Township facility to stand up and go out on strike at noon Friday. Fain offered those who have already been called to strike a message of encouragement.

“Keep showing the company’s that you’re ready to stand up when you’re called. When we win this fight, when we right the wrongs of the past 15 years and longer. And when we set a new course for future generations, it won’t be because of any president, not the UAW president, not the president of the United States. It will be because ordinary people did extraordinary things,” Fain said.

At Fain’s invitation, President Joe Biden on Tuesday visited a UAW picket line in Belleville, Mich., telling workers, “Wall Street didn’t build the country; the middle class built the country. … And unions built the middle class.” 

Although Biden said he marched in UAW picket lines when he was a U.S. senator, he’s noted taking pride in doing it as president. It is believed that this is the first time in modern history that a sitting president has visited an active strike site.

Fain did not note former President Donald Trump’s Wednesday speech at a non-union Macomb County plant. The union president declined to meet with Trump, saying he was part of the problem of the “billionaire class.”

“They [the UAW] have to endorse Trump [in 2024], because if they don’t, all they’re doing is committing suicide,” Trump said at the event at Drake Enterprises in Clinton Township.

The UAW has not endorsed in the 2024 election. Michigan is again considered a pivotal swing state.

Even with Biden’s support for the striking workers, Fain noted UAW members are still facing obstacles, noting a hit-and-run incident Tuesday afternoon on the picket line at General Motors’ Flint Processing Center. The incident, where it’s reported a driver leaving the facility hit five members of the picket line, wasn’t the only violence Fain said has occurred.

Five injured in hit and run at picketing General Motors facility near Flint

“We’ve had guns pulled on us. Trucks and cars ran through us and violent threats hurled at us. And I want to be absolutely clear. We will not be intimidated into backing down by the companies or their scabs,” Fain said. “Our solidarity is our strength and right now, our strength is the hope of working class people everywhere. Let’s stand up and win this thing for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, for our country, and for our future.”

The UAW is using a staggered approach to its strike, called a “Stand Up Strike” plan, where instead of all the plants striking together, select plants are periodically informed to “stand up and walk out.” 

Prior to Friday, a total of 41 locations were called to strike across 21 states, with 14 of the locations being in Michigan.

This is bigger than even the Detroit Three, Fain said, noting several other labor actions that have occurred since the UAW went on strike against the automakers. Notably, the Detroit Casino Council (DCC) UNITE HERE workers at Detroit’s three casinos — MGM Grand Detroit, Motor City Casino and Hollywood at Greektown — will vote Friday on whether to authorize their own strike.

Photo credit: Anna Liz Nichols

Originally published on September 29th, 2023, in the Michigan Advance


'This Is Our Defining Moment': UAW Launches Historic Strikes Against Big Three Automakers, Common Dreams

In two days, 144,000 US autoworkers workers are set to strike, People's Dispatch

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

New Elmore County men’s prison will cost over $1 billion

Price tag nearly equals the money legislators allocated for two men’s prisons


A state authority Tuesday put a “final guaranteed maximum price” on a new men’s prison in Elmore County at $1.082 billion, nearly equal to what legislators two years ago allocated for two men’s prisons.

The higher price tag – blamed on inflation and changes to spaces in the building – makes the construction of a second prison in Escambia County uncertain. It also throws other projects tentatively approved by the Legislature, including renovations to existing prisons and the construction of a new women’s prison, into doubt.

“We’ve got to move forward and do a good job,” said Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, the chair of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, following the meeting of the Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority (ACIFA). “I’ve been out to the site, and it literally is a small city coming out of the ground.”

Alabama’s prisons, overcrowded for decades, have suffered a wave of physical and sexual violence that led to a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2020. Gov. Kay Ivey and corrections officials argued for years that new prisons would be safer for inmates and staff, cost less to run, and have space for educational, vocational and rehabilitation programs to prevent people from returning to prisons.

The Legislature in 2021 approved the construction of 4,000-bed men’s prisons in Elmore and Escambia County for $1.3 billion. The legislation also authorized renovations of the Donaldson and Limestone correctional facilities; either the Bullock or Ventress Correctional Facility, and the construction of a 1,000-bed women’s prison to replace Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, built in 1942.

A meeting of people around a table
 The Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority (AFICA) meets shortly before approving a “final guaranteed maximum price” on an Elmore County prison on Sept. 26, 2023. From left to right: Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm; Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore (with back to camera); Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville; Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Director Cam Ward, and Gov. Kay Ivey.

The legislation did not provide a dedicated funding source for anything but the new men’s prisons.

The Elmore County facility should include major medical, training and rehabilitation programs. The Escambia County facility would not have programs of the same scale.

Critics of the project argue Alabama’s prison crisis stems from culture, not buildings and say the new construction will not address the culture of violence in the prisons.

Alina Arbuthnot of Maynard Nexsen, which has represented the state in the construction process, estimated Tuesday that costs had gone up by approximately $500 million. Arbuthnot said inflation, including the increased cost of construction materials, had played a role, but additions to the project had also affected it.

“We’ve added interior programming space, as well as vocational and educational space,” she said. “Some other items that were required by court order, as well as making a couple of changes that will help us save money on lifecycle and maintenance over the course of the service life of the facility. Maybe some upfront costs now that should save us annually.”

Ivey, who chairs the ACIFA, said in a statement that the prisons are “critically important to public safety, to our criminal justice system and to Alabama as a whole” and blamed inflation for the price increase.

“We have not built new prisons in more than 30 years, and if it was easy, it would have been attempted by a governor before me,” the statement said. “No doubt this is a major undertaking, but we are pressing on.”

Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund chair Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, said he was “concerned” about the additional price tag.

“I think we started out low,” Albritton said after the meeting. “I think we didn’t go back and revisit what we should have done. That was an error.”

The state is paying for the prison with $400 million in COVID relief money; $135 million in money appropriated from the General Fund, and about $500 million in borrowing. The Elmore County Prison is expected to be completed in May 2026.

The fate of the Escambia County prison and other projects are less certain. Albritton said “we’ve got to find the path,” and Reynolds said legislators would watch the progress of the Elmore County project.

“We’ll have to see on time and on what the market does,” he said. “I think it’s too early to answer that. They will just monitor that until February.”

Related Articles

This article originally appeared in the Alabama Reflector on September 26th, 2023.  

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

French decision to withdraw troops from Niger is a testimony “to the determination and will of the Nigerien people”

After withdrawing from Mali and Burkina Faso, and now on the way out from Niger, Chad is the last of the now practically defunct G5 Sahel country to host a permanent base of France.

September 25, 2023 by Pavan Kulkarni

French president Emmanuel Macron said on September 24 that the country will withdraw its troops from Niger. The announcement came after the country had refused to do so in a nearly two-months-long stand-off with Niger’s military government which ordered the French troops to leave the country soon after taking power in a popularly welcomed coup on July 26.

The withdrawal of its 1,500 troops will take place over “the months and weeks to come” and conclude by the end of this year, Macron said on Sunday.

France also decided to withdraw its ambassador, Sylvain Itté, who had earlier been asked to stay put in the embassy even after Nigerien authorities canceled his diplomatic card and visa late last month, and ordered the police to expel him. “In the next hours, our ambassador…will return to France,” added Macron.

“This Sunday, we celebrate the new step towards the sovereignty of Niger,” its military government, the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), said in a statement soon after. “It is a historic moment which testifies to the determination and will of the Nigerien people…Imperialist and neo-colonialist forces are no longer welcome on our national territory.”

The CNSP was formed after the coup on July 26, ousting former Nigerien president Mohamed Bazoum, who had welcomed more French troops and instituted a crackdown on the domestic protest movement against the French deployment.

Amid mass-demonstrations welcoming the coup and demanding the withdrawal of French troops, CNSP terminated the military agreements that had allowed France to deploy troops in Niger. The agreements entailed a one-month notice period which ended early this month.

However, French troops had continued to stay “in a position of illegality”, the CNSP-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman, had complained earlier this month. The former colonizer had refused to withdraw its troops on the grounds that it did not recognize the authority of the CNSP, insisting that Bazoum remains Niger’s president.

Even on announcing the withdrawal, Macron said, “We will consult the putschists, because we want this (withdrawal) to be done peacefully,” but maintained that France does not recognize the CNSP and continues to regard Bazoum as the “sole legitimate authority”.

Abdoulaye Seydou, national coordinator of the anti-imperialist M62 movement who had been imprisoned under Bazoum and released post-coup, had warned France late last month that “all the villages, all the surrounding communes will descend” on its base in capital Niamey, if its troops do not to leave. By the start of this month, protests demanding troop-withdrawal had become an almost daily event outside the French base.

France, however, had remained obstinate, and even extended support to the military action threatened by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore Bazoum to Niger’s presidency. However, the regional bloc was beset with protests and domestic opposition to war in several of its member states.

The Senate in neighboring Nigeria, the strongest military power in the bloc, refused to support the deployment of its troops. The African Union (AU) also refused to support the French-backed military intervention by ECOWAS.

In the meantime, Niger was assured of military support by Mali and Burkina Faso, which, like Niger, were also suspended from ECOWAS and sanctioned after popular coups, following which their military governments ordered French troops to leave.

After entering into a defense pact, with an agreement that an attack on one will be treated as an attack on all the three, inviting a joint military response, the three countries went on to form the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) on September 16.

In an open letter to the transitional presidents of the three countries, the West African Peoples’ Organization (WAPO) welcomed the formation of AES, “as the beginning of the realization of the ideals of the Founding Fathers of Pan-Africanism including Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah, Sékou Touré, Modibo Kéita, Patrice Lumumba, etc.”

It called for devolution of “power to the masses through defense committees” in its letter to the heads of AES, one of whose objectives is to counter the “armed groups, irregular armed forces or mercenaries”.

France accused of supporting terrorist groups in Sahel

One of the reasons Macron gave for his decision to withdraw troops was that the Nigerien authorities “no longer wanted to fight against terrorism”.

However, Mali, which has lost several dozen soldiers in the fight against Islamist insurgency over the last year, including 20 only this month, had alleged in August 2022 that France had breached airspace more than 50 times that year and dropped weapons to terrorist groups. While France rejected the allegation, Niger’s CNSP also said on September 22 that France was financing and equipping terrorist groups in Sahel.

Over the last decade, Islamist insurgencies have spread across Sahel in the aftermath of the destruction of Libya by NATO’s war, in which France was a key participant. With the stated aim of defeating these insurgencies, France started Operation Barkhane in 2014. By the time the operation ended in failure last year, violence involving Islamist Militants had nearly tripled in the Sahel.

At its peak strength, France’s Barkhane force had 5,500 troops deployed in what was called the G5 Sahel – namely Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, where it had permanent bases, and in Mauritania.

After withdrawing from Mali and Burkina Faso, and now on the way out from Niger, Chad is the last of the now practically defunct G5 Sahel countries to host a permanent base of France. While threatening military action against Niger ostensibly to restore democracy, France supports military rule in Chad. However, its future in Chad is far from secure, with a rising resentment against France and the military regime it is seen to have imposed on Chadian people.

This article originally appeared at on September 25th, 2023.  

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Monday, September 25, 2023

The Baltimore Sun’s Reckoning on Freddie Gray


Five days after Freddie Gray’s death, the Baltimore Sun (4/24/15) published on its website an interactive slideshow on his arrest, which it updated later that month as the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) added information. Audiences could click through a timeline of details of Gray’s long April 12, 2015, ride in a Baltimore police van, during which police reportedly made six stops before officers said they discovered their prisoner was unconscious. (Gray died on April 19, after a week in a coma.)

The slideshow was almost entirely sourced from the statements given by BPD leaders during press conferences, without independent corroboration. Some of the police claims were repeated as fact, with no attribution. “The driver of the transport van believes that Gray is acting irate in the back,” it stated at one point.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Is this the end of French neo-colonialism in Africa?

The recent formation of the Alliance of Sahel States is further proof of the consolidation of anti-French sentiment in the region. Philippe Toyo Noudjenoume, President of the West Africa Peoples’ Organization, says that this sentiment is especially strong in the Sahel region but is common throughout French-speaking Africa

September 21, 2023 by Zoe AlexandraVijay Prashad

In Bamako, Mali, on September 16, the governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger created the Alliance of Sahel States (AES). On X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Colonel Assimi Goïta, the head of the transitional government of Mali, wrote that the Liptako-Gourma Charter which created the AES would establish “an architecture of collective defense and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations.” The hunger for such regional cooperation goes back to the period when France ended its colonial rule. Between 1958 and 1963, Ghana and Guinea were part of the Union of African States, which was to have been the seed for wider pan-African unity. Mali was a member as well between 1961 and 1963.

But, more recently, these three countries—and others in the Sahel region such as Niger—have struggled with common problems, such as the downward sweep of radical Islamic forces unleashed by the 2011 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) war on Libya. The anger against the French has been so intense that it has provoked at least seven coups in Africa (two in Burkina Faso, two in Mali, one in Guinea, one in Niger, and one in Gabon) and unleashed mass demonstrations from Algeria to the Congo and most recently in Benin. The depth of frustration with France is such that its troops have been ejected from the Sahel, Mali demoted French from its official language status, and France’s ambassador in Niger (Sylvain Itté) was effectively held “hostage”—as French President Emmanuel Macron said—by people deeply upset by French behavior in the region.

Philippe Toyo Noudjenoume, the President of the West Africa Peoples’ Organization, explained the basis of this cascading anti-French sentiment in the region. French colonialism, he said, “has remained in place since 1960.” France holds the revenues of its former colonies in the Banque de France in Paris. The French policy—known as Françafrique—included the presence of French military bases from Djibouti to Senegal, from Côte d’Ivoire to Gabon. “Of all the former colonial powers in Africa,” Noudjenoume told us, “it is France that has intervened militarily at least sixty times to overthrow governments, such as [that of] Modibo Keïta in Mali (1968), or assassinate patriotic leaders, such as Félix-Roland Moumié (1960) and Ernest Ouandié (1971) in Cameroon, Sylvanus Olympio in Togo in 1963, Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso in 1987 and others.” Between 1997 and 2002, during the presidency of Jacque Chirac, France intervened militarily 33 times on the African continent (by comparison, between 1962 and 1995, France intervened militarily 19 times in African states). France never really suspended its colonial grip or its colonial ambitions.

Breaking the camel’s back

Two events in the past decade “broke the camel’s back,” Noudjenoume said: the NATO war in Libya, led by France, in March 2011, and the French intervention to remove Koudou Gbagbo Laurent from the presidency of Côte d’Ivoire in April 2011. “For years,” he said, “these events have forced a strong anti-French sentiment, particularly among young people. It is not just in the Sahel that this feeling has developed but throughout French-speaking Africa. It is true that it is in the Sahel that it is currently expressed most openly. But throughout French-speaking Africa, this feeling is strong.”

Mass protest against the French presence is now evident across the former French colonies in Africa. These civilian protests have not been able to result in straight-forward civilian transitions of power, largely because the political apparatus in these countries had been eroded by long-standing, French-backed kleptocracies (illustrated by the Bongo family, which ruled Gabon from 1967 to 2023, and which leeched the oil wealth of Gabon for their own personal gain; when Omar Bongo died in 2009, French politician Eva Joly said that he ruled on behalf of France and not of his own citizens). Despite the French-backed repression in these countries, trade unions, peasant organizations, and left-wing parties have not been able to drive the upsurge of anti-French patriotism, though they have been able to assert themselves

France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013 to try to control the forces that it had unleashed with NATO’s war in Libya two years previously. These radical Islamist forces captured half of Mali’s territory and then, in 2015, proceeded to assault Burkina Faso. France intervened but then sent the soldiers of the armies of these Sahel countries to die against the radical Islamist forces that it had backed in Libya. This created a great deal of animosity among the soldiers, Noudjenoume told us, and that is why patriotic sections of the soldiers rebelled against the governments and overthrew them.


After the coup in Niger, the West hoped to send in a proxy force—led by the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS)—but the African military leaders demurred. Across the region, people set up solidarity committees to defend the people of Niger from any attack, with the threat provoking “revolt and indignation among the populations,” Noudjenoume explained. Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was even forced to back down from ECOWAS’ crusade when his country’s Congress rejected the measure and mass protests occurred against militarily intervening in the neighboring country. As ECOWAS’ ultimatums to restore the deposed Nigerien leader Mohamed Bazoum expired, it became clear that its threat was empty.

Meanwhile, not only did it appear that the people of Niger would resist any military intervention, but Burkina Faso and Mali immediately promised to defend Niger against any such intervention. The new AES is a product of this mutual solidarity.

But the AES is not merely a military or security pact. At the signing ceremony, Mali’s Defense Minister Abdoulaye Diop told journalists, “This alliance will be a combination of military and economic efforts [among]… the three countries.” It will build upon the February 2023 agreement between Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali to collaborate on a fuel and electricity exchange, to build transportation networks, to collaborate on mineral resource sales, to build a regional agricultural development project, and to increase intra-Sahel trade. Whether these countries would be able to develop an economic agenda to benefit their peoples—and therefore guarantee that France would have no means to exert its authority over the region—is to be seen.

This article originally appeared at on September 21st, 2023.  

Related Posts

French decision to withdraw troops from Niger is a testimony “to the determination and will of the Nigerien people”

The long arm of Washington extends into Africa’s Sahel

Joe Biden is meeting African leaders - why free trade is a major talking point

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Friday, September 15, 2023

Georgia’s RICO Law Is in the News—but Its Use to Silence Protesters Gets a Pass

Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law, modeled on the federal statute designed to attack mob bosses, has been in the news a lot, ever since  Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis used Georgia’s law to charge former President Donald Trump and his associates with attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
CNN: The dangerous precedent set by Trump’s indictment in Georgia

CNN op-ed (8/26/23) criticized the RICO indictment of  Donald Trump because it could “open the door to unwarranted prosecutions of others.” But when Georgia initiated one of those “unwarranted prosecutions” just a few days later, CNN ran no critical op-ed.

And with the news has come the inevitable hand-wringing about whether the RICO charges against Trump were a good idea. CNN (8/26/23) published an op-ed questioning whether the indictments were too broad, saying, “Casting a wide net can also raise serious First Amendment issues.” One New York Times op-ed (8/29/23) worried that the case against Trump was overly complex, offering him the ability to mount a strong defense by delaying the proceedings.

Trump and his supporters are fond of framing the charges as a political hit against the ex-president and an attack on free speech, as if a mob boss can invoke the First Amendment when ordering the killing of a police informant. New York (8/17/23) did offer some valid criticism of the use of RICO laws, saying they have often been used for reactionary ends: 

The immediate concern is its continued legitimization of RICO laws, which are overwhelmingly used to punish poor Black and brown people for their associations, not would-be despots like the former president.

But when a new example arose of RICO being used to punish the powerless rather than the powerful—coming from not only the same state but from the very same grand jury—such cautiousness was hard to find in corporate media.

Accused of militant anarchism

Mo Weeks: Solidarity? That's anarchist. Sending money? Printing a zine? That's anarchist.

Interrupting Criminalization’s Mo Weeks (Twitter9/5/23) noted that the Cop City indictment included this passage: “Anarchists publish their own zines and publish their own statements because they do not trust the media to carry their message.” “Don’t trust the media and want to speak to people directly?” wrote Meeks. “RICO criminal enterprise apparently.”

Georgia’s RICO law was also invoked by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr when he targeted 61 opponents of the construction of Cop City, a sprawling police training center on the south side of Atlanta. The case against the protests alleges that protesters, some of whom have destroyed construction equipment, are engaged in a conspiracy to stop the complex’s construction, likening even nonviolent political action, commonly used across the political spectrum, to the workings of the Mafia. Joe Patrice at Above the Law (9/6/23) masterfully outlined the difference between the Trump case and the Cop City case: Both indictments include protected speech as “overt acts.” That’s fine. But one indictment identifies the underlying criminal enterprise as election fraud and the other as political protest itself. The latter is actually seeking to criminalize speech.

Patrice explained: If Trump and team actually conspired to commit election fraud by, among other things, inducing legislators to illegally certify phony Electors in Georgia, then otherwise protected speech acts like complaining about fake voter fraud can be overt acts.

In the Cop City case, on the other hand, “handing out leaflets doesn’t tie all that well to property damage” against the construction of Cop City because if “a conspiracy is limited to sabotaging construction vehicles, it’s hard to rope in defendants who weren’t buying equipment to destroy vehicles.”

In addition to the RICO charges, prosecutors charged a bail fund with money laundering and others for domestic terrorism. The indictment calls the protestors “militant anarchists” and incorrectly states the Defend Atlanta Forest group began in summer 2020, even though the indictment also states that the Cop City project was not announced until April 2021.

‘Clearly a political prosecution’

Democracy Now!: “A Political Prosecution”: 61 Cop City Opponents Hit with RICO Charges by Georgia’s Republican AG

Organizer Keyanna Jones (Democracy Now!9/6/23): “This is retaliation for anyone who seeks to oppose the government here in Georgia.”

While the Trump indictment predictably took center stage, the Cop City indictments received a fair amount of down-the-middle, straight reporting (AP9/5/23; New York Times9/5/23CNN9/6/23Washington Post9/6/23). However, compared to the Trump story, corporate media have shown far less concern about the broadness of Georgia’s RICO statute and how it has been invoked to essentially silence dissent against Cop City.

In left-of-center and libertarian media, the criticisms are there. MSNBC (9/7/23) called it an attack on dissent, and Devin Franklin of the Southern Center for Human Rights told Democracy Now!:

I think that when we look at the number of people that were accused and we look at the allegations that are included in the indictment, what we see are a wide variety of activities that are lawful that are being deemed to be criminal, and that includes things such as passing out flyers—right?—a really clear example of the exercise of First Amendment rights. We see that organizations that were bailing people out for protests or conducting business in otherwise lawful manners have been deemed to be part of some ominous infrastructure. And it’s just not accurate. This is really clearly a political prosecution.

The staff and readership of Reason (9/6/23) might not like a lot of the anti–Cop City’s economic and social justice message, but the libertarian magazine stood with the indicted activists on principle: 

To say that the indictment paints with a broad brush is an understatement. Prosecutors speak about “militant anarchists” and their tactics, but also spend a considerable amount of time describing conduct that is clearly protected speech. “Defend the Atlanta Forest anarchists target and recruit individuals with a certain personal profile,” the filing alleges. “Once these individuals have been recruited, members of Defend the Atlanta Forest also promote anarchist ideas through written documents and word of mouth”; such documents “decry capitalism in any form, condemn government and cast all law enforcement as violent murderers.” (All protected speech.)

Unconcerned about protest attacks

AP: 3 activists arrested after their fund bailed out protestors of Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’

Georgia has prosecuted activists even for participating in the criminal justice system (AP5/31/23).

However, corporate media appear unconcerned with the broad use of RICO to prosecute the anti–Cop City protesters. While many “RICO explainer” articles (NPR8/15/23CBS8/15/23) discussing the Trump case mentioned that Georgia’s RICO statute is broader and easier to prosecute than the federal statute—it’s “a different animal. It’s easier to prove” than the federal statute, a defense attorney told CNN (9/6/23)—the notion that this might be in play in the Cop City case was overlooked in many of the articles discussing that indictment (e.g., AP9/5/23CNN9/6/23New York Times9/5/23).

The indictment of the forest defenders is an escalation of previous attacks on free speech, advocacy and free association. Earlier this year, Atlanta police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested three activists operating a bail fund for opponents of Cop City protesters (AP5/31/23FAIR.org6/8/23). An “autopsy of an environmental activist who was shot and killed by the Georgia State Patrol” at an anti-Cop City protest “shows their hands were raised when they were killed,” NPR (3/11/23) reported.

So one might think that even more sweeping prosecutorial action would arouse more suspicion. An opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (9/11/23) admitted that the RICO charges against the protesters were overly broad and thinly supported, making for inefficient prosecution. But the piece seemed dismissive of First Amendment concerns: “Civil liberties groups are howling, saying the indictment is an affront to free speech,” Bill Thorby wrote, adding that “so are the supporters of Trump & Co.”

The Above the Law piece linked above explores and debunks this analogy, but the statement exhibits the lazy journalistic trick of lumping Trump and social justice activists as two sides of the same extremist coin, suggesting centrism is the only legitimate political position.

Anger against Cop City is growing, not just because of the political repression being used against activists, but because the project is the product of  police militarization, whopping spending on security at the expense of other needed services, and the destruction of forest land.

With Georgia’s RICO law in the news because of Trump, the media should be connecting this law to the broad suppression of legitimate dissent in Atlanta. While the prosecution is not going unreported, the urgency of the Orwellian use of state power is not felt in any kind of news analysis or in opinion pieces in the mainstream corporate press. At least not yet.

Research assistance: Pai Liu