Chris Christie Wants a Federal Probe of Cop City Protesters

“This is what the federal prosecuting system was made to deal with.”

John Arthur Brown/Zuma

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Former New Jersey governor and current Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie wants the federal government to come down hard on protesters who are trying to stop the construction of a police training facility in Atlanta, commonly dubbed “Cop City.”

Since late 2021, a decentralized group of protesters has occupied the forest where a complex to train police officers is set to be built. In January of this year, a state trooper fatally shot a protester who went by Tortuguita during a raid of the forest’s campsites; police say Tortuguita shot first, but protesters dispute this. In the months following Tortuguita’s death, Georgia prosecutors filed domestic terrorism charges against dozens of protesters, in a move that the American Civil Liberties Union says is “draconian” and likely to stifle dissent. While Cop City stories first focused on the actions in the forest where the complex is set to be built, the movement is wider; organizers are now moving to force a citywide vote on whether the development should go forward at all.

This weekend, Christie proposed going a step further in the crackdown and making the Cop City protests the subject of a federal investigation. In an interview, conservative radio host Eric Erickson said that the “antifa” protesters were “funded by outside nonprofits” and suggested that the government use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to prosecute them.

Christie took the bait.

“This is what the federal prosecuting system was made to deal with,” he said. “RICO seems particularly appropriate in that circumstance given that you obviously have an organization here that’s racketeering and is corrupt, and that’s what RICO stands for, everybody. And so we need to be more aggressive about this.”

Former President Trump was recently charged with violating RICO in Georgia in his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

In his attacks on Trump, Christie has attempted to paint himself as a moderate Republican candidate. But his avowed commitment to stifling protest makes clear what a moderate position means—and bodes negatively for future conversations about Cop City among Republicans eyeing the White House. 

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