Criminal Justice

Southern Poverty Law Center attorney charged with domestic terrorism was legal observer at demonstration

  • Print

generic protest

Image from Shutterstock.

A lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center who was accused of being one of 23 “agitators” during an Atlanta demonstration was actually a legal observer, according to the group and his defense lawyer.

The lawyer, 28-year-old Thomas Jurgens, was arrested March 5 and charged with domestic terrorism, according to Fox News.

Police say the peaceful protest turned violent when agitators dressed in black clothing threw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police officers. The demonstration took place at the site of a proposed police training center in Atlanta.

The protesters oppose the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest to build the training facility.

The National Lawyers Guild and the Southern Poverty Law Center released statements saying the SPLC employee arrested was at the protest as a legal observer for the guild. The statements don’t specifically identify Jurgens as the employee.

The SPLC statement said its employee “is an experienced legal observer, and their arrest is not evidence of any crime, but of heavy-handed law enforcement intervention against protesters.”

According to coverage by WSB-TV, prosecutors have determined that Jurgens was at the demonstration as a legal observer and did not participate in the violence. But a Fox News story said prosecutors agreed to the bond but still maintained that “simply because you’re an attorney doesn’t mean you can’t commit a crime.”

Jurgens was the only defendant among the 23 who were charged to be granted bond, which was set at $5,000.

Jurgens’ lawyer said his client was wearing a bright green hat to show that he was a legal observer, reports. The story linked to an Instagram video showing the arrest of a person in a green hat.

Jurgens is listed as an SPLC employee by state bars in Georgia and Florida. He is a 2019 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law.

Jurgens did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal request for comment sent to his work email address. The phone number listed for him does not work.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.