‘Cop City’ Defendant Victor Puertas Has Been Held For Months Without Trial, but His Community Hasn’t Forgotten Him

November 12 marked Victor Puertas’ 46th birthday. But while family and friends throughout the region gathered in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Victor spent the day behind bars.

For more than seven months, Puertas has been in pretrial detention after he was arrested and charged as a “domestic terrorist” for allegedly protesting against the sprawling police training campus known as “Cop City.”

He’s one of dozens of protesters swept up in the past 11 months in what lawyers and activists have called a political effort to repress a movement against the facility. While other protesters were denied bond in the weeks following their arrests, none have been detained as long as Puertas, who’s been held for the better part of a year with no trial.

In September, while being held in an ICE detention center, Puertas was named as one of 61 defendants in a sprawling RICO case brought against the movement to stop “Cop City.”

Victor’s case serves as a particularly harsh example of the repression brought against people in the movement to stop “Cop City,” according to supporters who have organized around his case.

“In Victor’s case, and in so many others, we can clearly see the heightened targeting of people in Georgia and throughout the US for their alleged involvement in political activism,” a press release marking the November 12 event reads.

In response, a growing support network has formed around Puertas to counter what supporters say is a clear-cut example of a political imprisonment. And for months, friends, family and activists have been calling for his release.

Victor was violently arrested in March at the South River Music Festival during a “week of action” against “Cop City” – a sprawling police training compound under construction near Atlanta. After being charged under Georgia’s domestic terrorism statute, Victor was repeatedly denied bond and held in DeKalb County jail for 90 days with no indictment.

He was released, as required by Georgia law, after 3 months with no indictment. But less than 48 hours after DeKalb County released him, due to his immigration status, he was taken into ICE custody. Since June, Puertas has been held in Stewart Detention Center outside Lumpkin, Georgia. For over seven months Puertas has been denied pretrial release as his case makes its way through court. There are fears that even if the domestic terrorism charge is dropped, Puertas may still be deported back to his native Peru.

Originally charged under Georgia’s domestic terrorism statute, Puertas was detained for 6 months before he was indicted on any charges. In September he was named as one of 61 defendants in a broad racketeering case brought against opponents of Cop City.

The case alleges that those named, including Victor, are part of an organized criminal “enterprise” that has conspired to terrorize the state into halting “Cop City.” The case is being brought by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, who pushed for the indictment after DeKalb and Fulton County Attorneys General refused to prosecute cases against “Cop City” protesters.

While Victor remains in custody, friends and family on the outside have rallied to support him by demanding his release and providing encouragement in the form of letters, calls and visits. Earlier this month, friends and family gathered at the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City to wish Victor a happy birthday and amplify their calls for his release.

Between prayers and songs, friends shared memories of time spent with Victor, recounting his warm spirit and dedication to his beliefs. Victor’s mother, Maria Puertas, addressed the crowd, sharing both how difficult her son’s detention has been on her family and her gratitude for those supporting him through the process.

The November 12 event marks another in a series of shows of support for Puertas. In July, a group of clergy members and supporters rallied outside of Stewart Detention Center to call for his release while faith leaders visited him inside.


RELATED:

Over 60 People Indicted on RICO Charges in Atlanta, Allegedly Promoting ‘Anarchist Ideas’ [Sept. 2023]

Indigenous Climate Activist Victor Puertas Remains in Custody Despite No Indictment [July 2023]

One Granted Bond, Two Denied Pretrial Release: Forest Defenders Appear for Preliminary Hearings [May 2023]



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