Five militants part of a violent far-left occupation in south Atlanta were arrested on Tuesday and charged with domestic terrorism and other felony charges.
On Dec. 13, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) launched a raid on the so-called autonomous zone at the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Since June 2021, Antifa and other far-left extremists from across the US have descended on the location to prevent the construction of what they call a "cop city." Responding law enforcement were assaulted with rocks and bottles by militants occupying makeshift treehouses. The GBI says it found explosive devices and gasoline after the rioters were cleared from the area.
Serena Abby Hertel, 25, who has addresses believed to be in Los Angeles, Calif. and Boise, Idaho, was charged with domestic terrorism, criminal trespass, aggravated assault, obstruction and inciting a riot. She was previously photographed in a mask for an Open Society Foundations-sponsored story about the autonomous zone in The Guardian.
Domestic terrorism suspect Serena Abby Hertel was previously photographed by David Walter Banks in The Guardian
Leonard Voiselle, 20, of Macon, Ga., was charged with domestic terrorism, criminal trespass, and possession of tools of the crime
Domestic terrorism suspect Leonard Voiselle, of Macon, Ga.
Nicholas Dean Olson, 25, of Bennington, Neb., was charged with domestic terrorism, aggravated assault, interference with government property and obstruction
Domestic terrorism suspect Nicholas Dean Olson, of Bennington, Neb., was previously photographed by David Walter Banks in The Guardian
Francis M. Carroll, 22, of Kennebunkport, Maine, was charged with domestic terrorism, criminal trespass, aggravated assault, felony obstruction, interference with government property and possession of tools for the commission of the crime.
Domestic terrorism suspect Francis M. Carroll, of Kennebunkport, Maine
Arieon Robinson, 21, of Milwaukee, Wisc., was charged with domestic terrorism, criminal trespass and obstruction.
Domestic terrorism suspect Arieon Robinson, of Milwaukee, Wisc.
The autonomous zone occupation has been growing since at least January, terrorizing nearby residents, law enforcement and construction workers. The GBI said in addition to assaults, arson and property destruction, there was a carjacking. The Atlanta Police Foundation estimates hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage have been inflicted on construction equipment in an ongoing effort to sabotage development.
Domestic terrorism suspect Serena Abby Hertel screaming while being arrested
In May, eight militants were arrested after police patrolling the land were assaulted. Responding police were pelted with rocks and Molotov cocktails. Nearly all of the arrestees were from out of state, with at least one, Abigail Skapyak, having been arrested at a BLM riot in Minnesota in 2021. In August, another six were arrested for crimes ranging from burglary to criminal damage. Left-wing groups used Twitter to fundraise bail for all the suspects.
In the days ahead of the raid on Tuesday, rioters had been escalating violence by carrying out a series of arson attacks, including trying to burn a man to death. In late November, an auto mechanic who drove into the autonomous zone thinking he found free discarded equipment reported to police he was ambushed by people dressed in camouflage.
"It seemed to me like they were going to burn the truck with me in it," Richard Porter told 11Alive News. He was forced to run for his life as his vehicle was torched.
Richard Porter says militants from the autonomous zone set his vehicle on fire while he was in it. Screenshot: 11 Alive
Less than two weeks later, occupants of the autonomous zone set fires on the road and hurled projectiles at first responders who tried to extinguish the flames. Later that day on Dec. 10, two under-construction homes next to the "cop city" were burned to the ground. Within 72 hours, a joint task force headed by the GBI finally raided the autonomous zone.
The domestic terrorism charges in Atlanta is not the first time Antifa-linked suspects were formally charged this way. Samantha Frances Brooks and Ellen Brennan Reiche were both convicted by federal prosecutors in Washington state for a terrorist attack on train tracks in 2021. The claim of responsibility for the attack was published on Antifa propaganda site, It’s Going Down, which has an active Twitter account.
It’s Going Down is an Antifa terrorist-linked group that has a Twitter account
Those occupying the land at the Atlanta autonomous zone have also maintained an active Twitter presence using the account, “@defendATLforest.” Even after Elon Musk’s takeover, Twitter remains an important function of the far-left ecosystem used to organize violent direct actions, identify targets of violence and to fundraise for arrested comrades. The day after their members were arrested, "Defend the Atlanta Forest" held a protest at the Dekalb County Jail where they lit off large explosive fireworks. Additionally, the Atlanta Jail Support, a project of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, immediately issued calls to fundraise bail money for the terror suspects using Twitter.
The domestic terrorist suspects have their group on Twitter, in addition to other accounts that fundraise for them
The five domestic terror suspects have mostly had their online presence scrubbed, though a Twitter account remains active for Leonard Voiselle. Under his account, "@digitconflict," Voiselle follows Antifa accounts from Portland, Ore., the Atlanta chapter of Antifa, Antifa propaganda site Unicorn Riot, Antifa activist Daryle Lamont Jenkins, among other far-left extremists.
Domestic terrrorism suspect Leonard Voiselle followed Defend the Atlanta Forest and many other Antifa accounts on Twitter
Serena Abby Hertel was an activist who appeared to be radicalized while at Pitzer College, where she graduated in 2020.
The shocking arrests have mostly been ignored by national media, though Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, issued a brief statement on Twitter: "We will not rest when it comes to bringing domestic terrorists to justice, and these arrests should serve as a strong reminder of that."
All five suspects remain in Dekalb County Jail, where they are awaiting arraignment.
Update: All five terrorist suspects were denied bail at their bond hearing on Thursday.
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