Atlanta Solidarity Fund Organizers Granted Bond

DeKalb County, GA — Three Atlanta Solidarity Fund organizers arrested Wednesday were awarded bond in DeKalb County Magistrate Court Friday afternoon.

Marlon Kautz, Adele Maclean and Savannah Patterson were arrested in Atlanta on May 31 after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Atlanta Police Department executed a search warrant at their home.

The warrants accuse the three operators of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which organizes support for those arrested while protesting in and around Atlanta, of charities fraud and money laundering. Within the warrants, reimbursements for expenses like “gasoline,” “yard signs” and “covid rapid-tests” are listed as proof of the alleged financial crimes.

The three defendants were each granted bonds of $15,000 with conditions. Once released, they will have to surrender their passports pending trial, remain in the state of Georgia, and report to pretrial services. Deputy Attorney General John Fowler also asked that the three be barred from operating the “Forest Defense Fund,” an arm of the organization set up to support people organizing against ‘Cop City.’ The terms of release were negotiated during the hearing, however the final terms are unclear at this time.

Defense attorney Donald Samuel, who represented the three defendants at the hearing, urged the court to issue bonds on the grounds that all of the defendants are long-time Atlanta residents who dedicate large portions of their time to charitable causes. Samuel also described the conditions Maclean has been subjected to in the DeKalb County Jail as a person with a disability.

Since being booked Wednesday, the jail has refused Altman access to braces which she relies on for mobility, she has been denied access to medication, and has been kept in solitary confinement, Samuel told the court. Friday’s bond hearing was the first time Maclean had been allowed to leave solitary confinement, he said.

The warrants were brought after a year and a half of investigating the organization, according to Fowler. In the course of the investigation, Fowler said the state found the Atlanta Solidarity Fund to harbor “anti-establishment” politics and told the court that their alleged ideology made the defendants a “flight risk.”

Through “trash pulls,” wherein law enforcement collects garbage to build evidence in a case, Fowler said the state found that the Atlanta Solidarity Fund holds “extremist anti-government” views disguised by “lawful and laudable” efforts such as mutual aid support and food distribution. Among the evidence Fowler used to demonstrate the organization’s “extremist” stances was an entry in a diary recovered from the trash at the residence police raided Wednesday. The entry, according to Fowler, mentioned “radicalizing liberals using subversive materials without encouraging state solutions.”

Fowler tried to describe the Atlanta Solidarity Fund and its parent organization, Network for Strong Communities, as being connected to a string of illegal protest activity, including George Floyd riots in 2020 and multiple direct actions against ‘Cop City.’

Samuel pushed back against Fowler’s characterization, arguing that the organization, even if it hypothetically provided support to someone who did something illegal, could not be found culpable for anyone else’s actions.

DeKalb County Magistrate Court Judge James Altman ruled in favor of the defense in issuing bonds, acknowledging that while probable cause for the charges exists, he was not convinced by the prosecution’s arguments for keeping the defendants in custody pending trial.

“I’m concerned about some of the same things that the defense attorney mentions about the line between legitimate free speech and crossing into illegal violent acts,” Judge Altman told the court.

“Paying for camping supplies and the like — I don’t find it very impressive. There’s not a lot of meat on the bones of the allegations that thousands of dollars are going to fund illegal activities.”

DeKalb County Magistrate Court Judge James Altman

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) released a statement on Wednesday about the arrests, where Suzanne Adely, NLG president, said that “arresting bail fund organizers is state repression. NLG strongly condemns the state of Georgia’s organized effort to silence, criminalize, and punish movements for justice.”

“Bail funds exist to protect people’s right to dissent,” Adely said. “They are necessary, legally sound resources that help people more safely access their constitutionally protected rights to speech and assembly by lowering the risks of financial ruin or indefinite jail time.”

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