Cop City

Controversy Erupts Over Police’s Utilization of PayPal Records in Raid Targeting Trio Behind ‘Cop City’ Protest Fund

Three individuals who supported activists protesting against constructing a $90 million police training facility called Cop City have been arrested. The arrests came after the police utilized PayPal data to bring money laundering charges against the trio.

The individuals taken into custody are Marlon Scott Kautz, 39 years old, and Adele Maclean, 42 years old, both from Atlanta, Georgia, and Savannah Patterson, 30 years old, from Savannah. They have been charged with money laundering and charity fraud. As board members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, their role involved facilitating legal advice, bail funds, and other forms of support for individuals opposing Cop City who encountered legal issues.

The arrest of Kautz, Maclean, and Patterson was executed by heavily armed officers, as depicted in the accompanying image. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) has stated that the charges against Kautz, Maclean, and Patterson are a result of an ongoing investigation into individuals involved in various criminal activities at the future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, as well as other locations in the metro Atlanta area.

The state cops said, “Agents and officers executed a search warrant and found evidence linking the three suspects to the financial crimes.”

According to the arrest warrant for Patterson, the evidence presented included reimbursements received from the Network for Strong Communities, a nonprofit organization registered in the state. These reimbursements, totaling approximately $7,000 over a span of two years, covered various expenses such as gasoline, forest clean-up, totes, COVID rapid tests, media, yard signs, and other miscellaneous items.

Allegations of Money Laundering and Charity Fraud in Relation to Cop City

The police investigation involved the use of PayPal records as evidence, suggesting that charitable donations made to the Network for Strong Communities were potentially funneled to Kautz and others. As board members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, it is alleged that they utilized these funds to provide support to individuals involved in protesting against Cop City. Among these protesters were members of the Defend the Atlanta Forest group, which the police claim Homeland Security identifies as violent domestic extremists.

The police assert that these protests resulted in criminal damage, arson targeting both public and private buildings, and attacks on law enforcement officers.

Controversy Erupts Over Police's Utilization of PayPal Records in Raid Targeting Trio Behind 'Cop City' Protest Fund
Credits: MSN

The network states on its website: “We develop initiatives and infrastructure to help communities address the big problems of our society: from climate change to poverty to racial injustice. No matter the problem, we recognize that by caring for each other’s needs we are all stronger.”

Law enforcement authorities allege that the transfer of financial contributions from the Network for Strong Communities to Defend the Atlanta Forest, facilitated through the Atlanta Solidarity Fund using PayPal, amounts to both money laundering and charity fraud.

Advocacy for Digital Rights and Calls for Action

Fight for the Future, an organization dedicated to digital rights advocacy, expressed concern over the use of PayPal data to charge organizations that provide financial and legal support to activists. Lia Holland, campaigns and communications director at Fight for the Future, stated that this action represents a significant escalation in law enforcement’s misuse of financial data. Holland also emphasized that the recent militarized raid on the Atlanta Solidarity Fund serves as a warning to nonprofits and mutual aid funds throughout the United States.

The Atlanta Solidarity Fund, a project of the Network for Strong Communities, offers legal support and bail assistance to individuals arrested during protests. Notably, the fund has provided support to protesters who have been arrested while opposing the construction of Cop City, a large-scale police training facility planned on Atlanta’s Weelaunee Forest. In January, one of these protesters, Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Esteban Paez Terán, tragically lost his life in a confrontation with the police.

Fight for the Future has urged Atlanta lawmakers to dismiss the charges against the three individuals and reject the funding for Cop City. The organization, focused on protecting digital rights, is also calling on Congress to safeguard the free speech rights of protesters and defend their First Amendment rights to develop financial tools that enhance security, safety, and organizing efforts crucial to frontline activism in the digital era, as stated by Lia Holland, the campaigns and communications director.