‘Hate List’ Peddling SPLC Linked to Domestic Terrorism, Again
Atlanta police detained 35 “violent agitators” on Sunday after what appear to be hundreds of rioters broke into the future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) charged 23 individuals with domestic terrorism, including Thomas Webb Jurgens, a staff lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Jurgens was one of two detained individuals with a primary address located in Georgia, with some coming from as far away as Canada and France.
The agitators left a nearby peaceful protest and “changed into black clothing” before they “entered the construction area and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers,” according to a police statement. The illegal actions “could have resulted in bodily harm,” but they did result in the destruction of “multiple pieces of construction equipment by fire and vandalism.”
The statement added that “officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to conduct arrests.” Surveillance footage shows officers retreating as demonstrators advance and set fires. “We were very fortunate. Because of the quick actions of the commanders on scene, no police officers were injured,” said Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, in a late-night press conference at the scene.
Sunday’s violence was not the first clash at the construction site, which left-wing radicals have dubbed “Cop City.” Law enforcement charged five individuals with domestic terrorism on December 13 for violent attacks on police at the site. On January 18, police arrested and charged seven individuals with domestic terrorism, while another agitator was shot and killed after shooting a police officer. The shooting sparked riots in downtown Atlanta, which resulted in Atlanta police arresting six more individuals for domestic terrorism on January 21. Like the agitators arrested on Sunday, 16 of the 18 individuals arrested came from out of state.
“Actions such as this will not be tolerated. When you attack law enforcement officers or damage equipment, you are breaking the law. This was a very violent attack,” said Schierbaum on Sunday. “This wasn’t about a public safety training center. This was about anarchy. And this was about the attempt to destabilize. And we are addressing that quickly. … When it’s a legitimate protest, you have the full protection of the Atlanta police department. This is not a protest. This is criminal activity.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) struck a similar tone. “Violent activists,” he said, “chose destruction and vandalism over legitimate protest, yet again demonstrating the radical intent behind their actions.” Kemp continued, “Domestic terrorism will NOT be tolerated in this state. … We will not rest until those who use violence and intimidation for an extremist end are brought to full justice.”
Some of the anarchic agitators arrested at the training center construction site appear to have no previous record with law enforcement. SPLC attorney Jurgens “appears as a member in good standing on the website of the State Bar of Georgia,” reported The Daily Signal’s Tyler O’Neil, author of “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
O’Neil told FRC President Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch,” “I reached out to the Georgia State Bar to hear what the next process is there. I believe what will happen is as soon as if this individual is convicted of domestic terrorism, then he will no longer be in good standing. They will almost certainly take action against him.”
The SPLC did not respond to O’Neil or other reporters inquiring about their article’s arrest. Instead, they waited until late on Monday to issue a statement:
“An employee at the SPLC was arrested while acting — and identifying — as a legal observer on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). The employee is an experienced legal observer, and their arrest is not evidence of any crime, but of heavy-handed law enforcement intervention against protesters.
“This is part of a months-long escalation of policing tactics against protesters and observers who oppose the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest to build a police training facility. The SPLC has and will continue to urge de-escalation of violence and police use of force against Black, Brown and Indigenous communities — working in partnership with these communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements and advance the human rights of all people.”
Far from distancing themselves from an employee charged with domestic terrorism, the SPLC has insisted that he did nothing wrong and used the incident to go on offense. Yet, Perkins noted on “Washington Watch,” “They’re the ones actually now engaging in violence, attacking police.”
Georgia’s domestic terrorism statute, enacted in 2017, defines “domestic terrorism” as:
“any felony violation of, or attempt to commit a felony violation of the laws of this state which, as part of a single unlawful act or a series of unlawful acts which are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics, is intended to cause serious bodily harm, kill any individual or group of individuals, or disable or destroy critical infrastructure, a state or government facility, or a public transportation system when such disability or destruction results in major economic loss, and is intended to:
“(A) Intimidate the civilian population of this state or any of its political subdivisions;
“(B) Alter, change, or coerce the policy of the government of this state or any of its political subdivisions by intimidation or coercion; or
“(C) Affect the conduct of the government of this state or any of its political subdivisions by use of destructive devices, assassination, or kidnapping.”
Under the law, domestic terrorism is a felony punishable “if critical infrastructure, a state or government facility, or a public transportation system is disabled or destroyed, by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than 35 years.” Such a sentence may not be “suspended, stayed, probated, deferred, or withheld by the sentencing court” unless the prosecuting attorney and defendant agree.
The conduct of the Atlanta agitators fits that definition of domestic terrorism. They committed a series of unlawful acts, including acts of felony violence. They used weapons calculated to destroy a government facility and cause serious bodily harm. And they did so with the ultimate intention of forcing the government to alter its policy and conduct by abandoning the construction of a fire and police training facility.
Illegal opposition to the training facility construction project has taken place for months; the latest agitation seems only to have escalated the scope of illegal activity. Much like the months-long Antifa siege of the Portland, Ore. federal courthouse in 2020, the Atlanta agitators conceal themselves among peaceful protestors and then spring forth in a coordinated assault with improvised weapons, before melting back into anonymity. Many of the agitators evaded capture on Sunday night and remain at large to pursue the same black-clad, illegal tactics at future protests, which have already been planned.
However, one difference between the situations in Atlanta and Portland is that Georgia law enforcement authorities are far less willing to let violent conduct slide, as dozens of arrests already show. Neither Oregon officials nor federal law enforcement were willing to shut down the nightly Antifa violence, but Georgia officials are far less willing to tolerate it.
Another difference is that the latest round of arrests now ties the SPLC more closely to the violence of their ideological allies (the SPLC has long aided Antifa, O’Neil reports) than ever before. The SPLC maintains “hate” maps of their political opponents — ranging from fringe extremists to mainstream conservative organizations — which in 2012 inspired a terror attack on FRC’s D.C. headquarters. “This is not the first time the Southern Poverty Law Center has been connected to domestic terrorism. SPLC was connected to a 2012 domestic terrorist shooting at @FRCdc, but this one will be hard for them to dodge,” wrote Perkins. In 2021, the FBI investigated a bomb thrown at a Baptist church in El Monte, Calif., which was on the SPLC’s hate map.
Yet instead of dismantling this well-organized network of violent, left-wing radicals, the FBI has chosen instead to devote maximum resources to targeting peaceful pro-lifers for protesting outside an abortion facility. Atlanta Police stated that they are working with the FBI, along with a half dozen other law enforcement agencies, but the FBI has kept a low profile, despite the fact that more than 40 individuals now face domestic terrorism charges related to violence against the Atlanta construction site.
In fact, the FBI Richmond Field Office produced an internal memo, leaked last month, identifying “‘radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]’ as potential ‘racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists’” based in part on the SPLC’s hate group designations, “apparently without any independent vetting from the FBI,” as 20 state attorneys general complained in a February 10 letter. The FBI retracted the memo because it did “not meet the exacting standards of the FBI.”
One irony is, the SPLC likes to paint its opponents as violent extremists, but it’s the one with ties to domestic terrorism — now more than ever.
The SPLC’s radicalism is particularly concerning because of its close ties to a wide variety of left-wing culture wars. President Biden has nominated SPLC’s strategic litigation director, Nancy Abudu, who has opposed commonsense voting laws, U.S. sovereignty, and religious freedom, to serve as a judge on the 11th Circuit of Appeals. Abudu’s legal team also sued to block Alabama’s 2022 Vulnerable Child Compassion Act, which would protect minors from gender transition procedures, using some questionable legal procedures that provoked an investigation for judge shopping. SPLC has also produced and disseminated an educational curriculum called “Learning for Justice,” which indoctrinates children with Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory.
Another irony is that these left-wing protestors are targeting a proposed police training center. One complaint raised in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in 2020 was that police needed better training to avoid the use of excessive force. In 2021, Atlanta’s City Council approved $90 million to construct a public safety training center to offer better police training. Yet these left-wing agitators, including an SPLC employee, are trying to destroy the training facility — making it almost seem as if they don’t want police at all. All this in a city where crime has grown so bad that one neighborhood tried to secede from the rest of the city to fund their own police force.
Yet the legacy media has largely ignored this widely influential (albeit non-credible) organization’s connection to the domestic terrorism charges in Atlanta. While they reported on the violence, ABC, CBS, and NBC neither applied an ideological label to the agitators nor mentioned that one of those arrested and charged with domestic terrorism was a lawyer for the SPLC.
It’s hard to imagine these networks would have approached the domestic terrorism arrests with the same lack of interest if a lawyer for a conservative legal group, like Alliance Defending Freedom, had been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. Every network would declare, in wall-to-wall coverage, that the incident demonstrated a vast right-wing conspiracy, just like January 6. So, where is the outrage?
The legacy media’s coverage may be as one-sided as the SPLC’s hate map, but the reality is that left-wing political violence has grown too brazen to ignore, and Georgia law enforcement seem determined to do something about it. As its incredibly close ties to political violence are exposed, that could spell trouble for the SPLC.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.