ATLANTA (LifeSiteNews) — Just weeks after news broke that the FBI field office in Richmond, Virginia partially relied on a report from the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to justify its since-retracted memo targeting certain Latin Mass-going Catholics, the SPLC is once again in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On Sunday, an SPLC staff attorney was reportedly among 35 people detained and 23 charged with domestic terrorism after a “peaceful protest” turned violent in Atlanta, Georgia.
Leftist demonstrators, including members of Antifa, have been protesting for weeks at the site of what has been dubbed “Cop City,” a $90 million first responder training center currently under construction outside Atlanta.
According to the AP, “[p]rotesters who oppose what detractors call ‘Cop City’ run the gamut from more traditional environmental environmentalists to young, self-styled anarchists seeking clashes with what they see as an unjust society.”
In January, a 26-year-old environmentalist protester was shot and killed by police at the site after an altercation, triggering more violent riots that subsequently trickled down into the city itself.
Rioters, many of whom have traveled from out of state to engage in the protests, have thrown Molotov cocktails, rocks, and fireworks at buildings, police cars, and officers themselves, leading Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to declare a state of emergency in late January.
On Sunday, what started as a peaceful protest and music festival reportedly erupted into a new wave of violence against officers. Police arrested nearly three dozen protesters, including SPLC staff attorney Thomas Webb Jurgens.
According to local news outlet WSB TV, “police said a group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers.”
“They changed into black clothing and entered the construction area and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers,” officials said, adding the violence “wasn’t about a public training center; this was about anarchy.”
Jurgens was one of only two Georgia residents to be arrested Sunday night, according to police. Other activists hailed from states as far-flung as Utah, Arizona, New York, and Colorado. One was from France.
Other records culled by the outlet show that Jurgens is also listed with the Georgia State Bar as an “Active Member in Good Standing” since March 26, 2021, with no recorded public discipline.
Meanwhile, Dekalb County Jail records show that Jurgens was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and has been charged with one count of domestic terrorism after the violence Sunday.
The SPLC, which maintains a list of organizations deemed “hate groups,” has notably branded conservative groups including Liberty Counsel, Family Research Council, and Alliance Defending Freedom as so-called hate groups, as well as traditional Catholic groups and news organizations including The Remnant, Catholic Family News, and Tradition in Action.
The SPLC’s categorization of “radical traditionalist Catholicism” as a potential threat became a key component in the since-retracted eight-page memo from the Richmond, Virginia FBI field office, which directed federal law enforcement to conduct surveillance to intercept “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” who have allegedly found common ground with “radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology,” LifeSiteNews previously reported.
Despite flagging pro-family legal groups and Catholic news outlets as purveyors of “hate,” the group has failed to identify Antifa, the loosely organized leftist anarchist groups that engaged in destructive and deadly riots after the death of George Floyd in 2020, as one of those “extremist” groups.
Instead, they’ve described the group as “a broad, community-based movement composed of individuals organizing against racial and economic injustice.”
GOP lawmakers are looking to stand up a national commission in the style of the 9/11 Commission or the January 6 Committee to study Antifa’s involvement in U.S. riots.
“Most recently, Atlanta was the scene of violence as businesses were targeted and law enforcement vehicles were attacked,” said Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who introduced the bill. “Just as with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, we must learn the truth about who is behind the violence and who is pushing the narrative to try and weaken our country and scare people into submission.”
Republican Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, who is co-sponsoring the legislation, argued that “[i]t’s past time we investigate the violence and destruction Antifa has inflicted on our cities.”
“These extremists must be held accountable for their crimes,” he said.