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SPLC Attorney Indicted for Attack on Public Safety Training Facility

September 8, 2023

On Tuesday, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) staff attorney Thomas Jergens was among 61 individuals indicted in Atlanta on racketeering charges, which include a mob attack on a public safety training facility near the city in March. Experts are noting that the violent, extremist tactics employed by Jergens are characteristic of the SPLC’s efforts to target conservative organizations.

On March 5, a mob of approximately 150 individuals attacked the construction site of a planned public safety training facility with rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and other explosive devices as police officers attempted to secure the site from being breached. The facility has been labeled “Cop City” by protesters, who say it is causing environmental damage and will lead to the “militarization” of law enforcement. Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum has said that “the public safety training center[’s purpose] … is to ensure that everyone who calls 911 in Atlanta, Georgia gets a proper, professional response.”

Video footage of the incident shows that a contingent of extremists first attacked the facility property with Molotov cocktails and other flammable accelerants while donning hoods and masks in order to hide their identity, and then retreated into the woods and changed into civilian clothes in order to appear as peaceful protestors. During the incident, a police officer was assaulted, and explosive devices can be seeing detonating within feet of several officers as they attempted to secure the facility.

As noted in the indictment, the racketeering charges stem from “225 incidents in which the defendants are alleged to have worked together to prevent the construction” of the facility over the last three years. Some of the incidents include a group attacking Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) headquarters in July 2020 “by throwing rocks and hurling a Molotov cocktail through the window, resulting in the injury of two employees and the building catching fire” and a December 2022 incident in which the defendants “threw fireworks at firefighters and EMTs, damaged an APD vehicle, and cut the safety rope of an arborist working in one of the trees on the site.”

Legal experts are pointing out that the presence of the SPLC’s Thomas Jergens at the March 5 incident indicates that the attack was likely planned.

“I look at the SPLC lawyer’s presence there as indication that it was absolutely not spontaneous,” said Chris Gacek, FRC’s senior fellow for Regulatory Affairs, during Thursday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.” “[W]ho brings their lawyer to a spontaneous riot? … [T]his was definitely something that’s part of a modus operandi on the hard Left. The National Lawyers Guild is the organization that he was associated with as a volunteer while being an SPLC employee. [I]t’s basically a hard left communist organization that’s been around since the 1930’s.”

As to the SPLC’s claim that Jergens was merely acting as a “legal observer” who was attempting to protect the rights of protesters, Gacek expressed skepticism.

“In Jergen’s case, it appears that he was actually part of the group of people who overwhelmed the police — he wasn’t just standing back. But even if he were just standing back, I believe that the Georgia law enforcement authorities are correct in being very skeptical of this whole modus operandi of having these lawyers involved in riot planning and protection.”

Following the March 5 incident, Jergens was among 23 people charged with domestic terrorism. The incident marked the second time the SPLC has been linked to domestic terrorism. The organization, which itself purports to “monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States” via a “Hate Map,” was cited by Floyd Corkins in 2012 as a reason that he targeted Family Research Council, in which he shot and wounded FRC building manager Leo Johnson, who nonetheless thwarted Corkins’s plan to kill dozens of staff members. Corkins was later convicted of domestic terrorism.

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.