On March 5, Brown alum and current law student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Jamie Marsicano ’16 was arrested on domestic terrorism charges while attending a music festival as part of protests against the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, nicknamed ‘Cop City.’ On Aug. 29, she was indicted under Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.
Cop City is a police campus being constructed in Atlanta for officers from the area and globally to train in. The project, which spans 85 acres, has faced opposition since its announcement in 2021, according to Xavier de Janon, one of Marsicano’s attorneys.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s indictment, which names 60 others, alleges that Marsicano aided and abetted arson and domestic terrorism by joining an organized mob and “overwhelming the police force” in an attempt to prevent the construction of the training center.
Tim Emry, another of Marsicano’s attorneys, told The Herald that officers assumed that she was among other protestors who destroyed property near the construction site because they saw mud on Marsicano's legs. Emry is also representing Marsicano in a new case alleging a Charlotte police officer made defamatory statements against her.
de Janon called the March 5 event, in which more than 20 people were detained by the police, “an indiscriminate mass arrest.”
“The RICO charges are yet another attempt by the state to silence and criminalize people who oppose Cop City,” Marsicano wrote. “But it’s clearer now more than ever that the Atlanta Police Foundation and their web of corporate donors are the real racketeering organization that's conspiring to hurt communities, destroy forests and take lives.”
According to Rob Baskin, Atlanta Police Foundation’s vice president and director of public affairs, the foundation’s role in the city is “to develop new programs which can ultimately reduce crime,” CNN previously reported.
Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms described the project as “another step in our administration's efforts to support our fire and police officers, while also focusing on sensible reform,” in a September 2021 press release. “We will continue to work with the impacted communities on how to best thoughtfully develop and preserve the surrounding property.”
“This indictment is alarming for several reasons,” de Janon wrote in an email to The Herald. “The biggest one is that it criminalizes political dissent in an extremely worrisome way. It makes it a crime to act in solidarity with others and to support mutual aid.”
According to de Janon, the indictment was pushed forward based on the testimony of a single special agent.
“It is very unclear what the next step after this unprecedented indictment is,” de Janon wrote. “Usually, the next step would be for people to get arraignment dates, but it is a mystery how the attorney general intends to proceed.”
Following the initial arrest, Marsicano was released after three weeks in jail and spent three months on an ankle monitor, they said.
“I’ve been banned from (UNC’s) campus, (and) I can’t currently pass a background check — even though I’m factually and legally innocent — to get a lease,” Marsicano said. “You can really see how a charge, … and specifically political repression can really destroy someone’s life.”
As part of Marsicano’s defense, her lawyers reached out to friends, family and supporters, including members of the University community who, in April, released a letter of support that currently has over 500 signatures.
Marsicano said that seeing the letter was “so powerful.”
“It made me cry, to see Brown University students, faculty, alumni, trying to lend their voice to support me and the other defendants,” they said.
“As Brown University community members, we are appalled at the absurd charges made against our fellow alumna and co-defendants," the letter reads. "We will continue to apply pressure until the charges are dropped.”
“Jamie resonates with many Brown University students that I know, with that passion, that spirit and that lens for social justice,” said Dawn King, senior lecturer in environment and society. “I really know Jamie as a person. I know how kind they are.”
The charges of domestic terrorism “really upset me,” King said. “This is a scary reminder of speaking truth to power."
Recounting the arrest, Marsicano described it “as if the police raided Spring Weekend and just indiscriminately grabbed whoever they could.”
“The only difference is that Spring Weekend is protected by the ivory tower and the music festival in Atlanta was to call attention to the murder of (Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán) and the destruction of the forest for Cop City,” they added, referencing an Indigenous queer environmental activist shot by Georgia state troopers in January.
Emry said that the protests have focused both on the “negative environmental impact” of the facility and “the expansion of public dollars being used to support police who perpetuate white supremacy and racial inequity in their systems.”
According to de Janon, the protests are particularly urgent since Cop City is still actively being built, resulting in the forest being cleaned “and more contractors … appearing.” He also noted that, though being constructed in Atlanta, the new facility has multiple sources of funding, as well as architects, contractors and lawyers from across the country — and it will be used by police from all over the world.
Rhode Islanders joined the protests against Cop City earlier this year.
"People in Rhode Island realized that Cop City is a national issue," de Janon said.