61 'Cop City' protesters arraigned Monday morning, rally held in support

It was a busy day inside one Fulton County courtroom as dozens of activists faced a judge for the first time.

61 defendants were indicted in August and were charged for their alleged violent efforts to stop the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center they refer to as "Cop City." Only 13 of the 61 defendants are from Georgia.

After more than two months after being indicted by a Fulton County Grand Jury, they were formally arraigned Monday. All of them are facing RICO charges.

PREVIOUS STORY: 61 people indicted on RICO charges connected to 'Stop Cop City' protests

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Smoke and flames are billowing out at the site of Atlanta's future Public Safety Training Facility infamously called 'Cop City' by protestors.

From: FOX 5 Atlanta

Activists say they're simply exercising their First Amendment rights, but the state has called the group anarchists.

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that setting fires and breaking windows isn’t protesting. It is terrorism," said Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum in January.

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Only 4 out of the 61 did not show up for the arraignment on Monday. Abigail Skapyak was a no show and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest; Fredrique Robert-Paul had trouble with the Canadian Border Patrol and was unable to enter the U.S.; Dimitri LeNy is believed to be out of the country; and Victor Puertase is in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

The other 58 who appeared in court waived arraignment and the judge said final plea hearings will happen sometime in May or June 2024. Attorneys asked for that much time because of the need to go through 5 terabytes of data related to the case. 

Multiple activists gathered outside the courthouse in Fulton County before the arraignment to show their support for those being indicted. Barricades were set up outside the courthouse on Friday.

"We’re here today to make sure that our comrades and friends are supported because we know that these charges are fake charges," said Kamau Franklin. 

The indictment was handed down by Attorney General Chris Carr in September.

The 109-page indictment accuses 61 members of Defend the Atlanta Forest of multiple violent acts from 2020 to early this year.

The indictment alleges several took part in January's "Night of Rage" which left multiple downtown Atlanta buildings damaged and a police car on fire. Some of the defendants are facing charges of domestic terrorism and attempted arson.

RELATED: Atlanta Public Safety Training Center controversy: Another tractor torched, both sides respond

Carr also accuses the Network of Strong Communities of pretending to be a charitable group and money laundering.

"I believe RICO is a dramatic overstep, and it's expanded this case far outside anything that was justified," said Joshua Schiffer, Katie Kloth’s Defense Attorney.

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Activists protest outside the Fulton County Courthouse as all but four of 61 'Cop City' defendants were being arraigned on Nov. 6, 2023.

Activists argue that the charges are baseless and done in an effort to attack the people's right to protest.

The pushback on the Public Training Center, which is referred to as Cop City by the activists, has turned violent at times.

RELATED: Poll: Atlanta voters want planned police training center on ballot, no new Fulton County jail

The Atlanta City Council approved the training center in 2021, saying a state-of-the-art campus would replace substandard offerings and boost police morale, which is beset by hiring and retention struggles in the wake of violent nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the summer of 2020.

Activists nationwide have joined the protest movement, arguing that the 85-acre center would train officers to become more militarized and quell dissent, all while hundreds of trees are cut down, worsening flooding and climate change.

The judge says a final plea hearing will happen sometime in May or June to give the defense teams enough time to look through the evidence.