January 27, 2023

CITY ON FIRE: Protests erupt in Atlanta over killing of “forest defender”

CITY ON FIRE: Protests erupt in Atlanta over killing of "forest defender"

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Several people were arrested in downtown Atlanta over the weekend as protests over the the police killing of a beloved activist — and over the city’s plan to build a $90 million law enforcement training facility where a forest now stands — hit a fever pitch.

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The “Stop Cop City” protest resulted in six arrests stemming from the outrage over the killing of forest defender, Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, on January 18th.

What started as a peaceful protest on Saturday quickly escalated – with several businesses reportedly vandalized, and with video of a police car on fire dominating mainstream media headlines.

Media have attempted to paint Teran as a “radical terrorist,” but to those who knew the 26 year old, he was reportedly “kind and giving.”

“In Atlanta, Georgia, calls are growing for an independent investigation into the police killing of an activist Wednesday during a violent raid on an encampment of protesters opposed to the proposed $90 million training facility in a public forest,” Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman said on an episode of The War and Peace Report.

Goodman interviewed a forest defender – who wished to remain anonymous – about the raid that sparked the weekend protests.

“Tortuguita was a radiant, joyful, beloved community member. They fought tirelessly to honor and protect the sacred land of the Weelaunee Forest. Tortuguita brought an indescribable jubilance to each and every moment of their life,” the anonymous forest defender said,

According to the source, nearly a dozen shots were fired around 9 a.m. After Tehran’s killing, law enforcement officers continued to forcefully evict the forest’s occupiers.

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Police launched rubber bullets at tree sitters – causing frightened protesters to run and hide.

Plans for the law enforcement training facility were announced last year by then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. But despite copious public opposition, the Atlanta City Council gave the go-ahead for the project in September 2021.

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Since 2015, the Atlanta Police Foundation had set its sights on the project, which will be located on approximately 85 acres in South DeKalb County.

In December 2022, five forest defenders were arrested on charges of domestic terrorism, Atlanta News First reported.

Cop City protesters have defended the actions of protesters, and criticized the city’s plans.

“Critics claim the southwest Atlanta location will lead to increased police brutality in the Black communities surrounding the Weelaunee Forest and bring environmental destruction to ancestral lands,” Atlanta News First wrote.

Bodycam footage has yet to be released in Teran’s killing, but videos of police officers pinning down and placing protesters in zip ties on Saturday has been making the rounds.

 

Attorney Kamau Franklin expressed concern during an interview on Status Coup News.

“We are supposed to believe that these 5 agencies, the Dekalb County Police, the Atlanta police, FBI, GA state troopers, SWAT teams ALL went in there – no body cams,” Franklin said. “In fact, Atlanta police are required to have body cams,” he told the panel.

“The fact that there is no body cam imagery whatsoever – that they are releasing, or telling us there is none – is one of the first reasons we should be suspicious,” Franklin added..

Activists have been undeterred by the recent events involving the planned police training facility.

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They’ve called for action from authorities, including a full investigation into the shooting of their beloved community member, and a program to bring awareness to the very police brutality they fear Cop City will increase.

Unfortunately, a 2017 Georgia law enacted following the South Carolina church massacre by White supremacist Dylan Roof will make it easier for law enforcement to charge peaceful protesters with acts of domestic terror.

Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens confirmed that the six arrested over the weekend were not Georgia residents, and denounced the protests.

“They had explosives. They burned down a police car, they broke windows at businesses. And so our police department, along with our state and federal partners, took swift action within two blocks and brought that situation under control,” Dickens said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

And police officers killed a man – let’s not forget that.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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