On January 18, Atlanta police murdered Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, a young queer activist, forest defender, and trained medic. This police killing was part of an attack on protesters who have been resisting the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest to build a $90 million “cop city,” a training ground for police to learn new tactics to terrorize Black, Brown, and working-class communities.
In addition, the police have been violently repressing protests in Atlanta against Cop City and in honor of Tortuguita. Now, several environmental activists have been charged with “domestic terrorism,” while Tortuguita’s murderer remains uncharged. This is a blatant attempt to criminalize and intimidate activists.
The attack on the activists opposing Cop City shows once again that police are the enemies of climate defenders, Black and Brown people, and the working-class. The cops are tools of capitalism. They will not hesitate to murder using violence and trumped up charges in order to enforce environmental destruction for profit.
Left Voice endorses the statement released by the autonomous movement to Defend The Atlanta Forest. We republish the statement below and echo the movement’s call for solidarity with their movement.
We call on all people of good conscience to stand in solidarity with the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta.
On January 18, in the course of their latest militarized raid on the forest, police in Atlanta shot and killed a person. This is only the most recent of a series of violent police retaliations against the movement. The official narrative is that Cop City is necessary to make Atlanta “safe,” but this brutal killing reveals what they mean when they use that word.
Forests are the lungs of planet Earth. The destruction of forests affects all of us. So do the gentrification and police violence that the bulldozing of Weelaunee Forest would facilitate. What is happening in Atlanta is not a local issue.
Politicians who support Cop City have attempted to discredit forest defenders as “outside agitators.” This smear has a disgraceful history in the South, where authorities have used it against abolitionists, labor organizers, and the Civil Rights Movement, among others. The goal of those who spread this narrative is to discourage solidarity and isolate communities from each other while offering a pretext to bring in state and federal forces, who are the actual “outside agitators.” The consequence of that strategy is on full display in the tragedy of January 18.
Replacing a forest with a police training center will only create a more violently policed society, in which taxpayer resources enrich police and weapons companies rather than addressing social needs. Mass incarceration and police militarization have failed to bring down crime or improve conditions for poor and working-class communities.
In Atlanta and across the US, investment in police budgets comes at the expense of access to food, education, childcare, and healthcare, of affordable and stable housing, of parks and public spaces, of transit and the free movement of people, of economic stability for the many. Concentrating resources in the hands of police serves to defend the extreme accumulation of wealth and power by corporations and the very rich.
What do cops do with their increased budgets and their carte blanche from politicians? They kill people, every single day. They incarcerate and traumatize schoolchildren, parents, loved ones who are simply struggling to survive. We must not settle for a society organized recklessly upon the values of violence, racism, greed, and careless indifference to life.
The struggle that is playing out in Atlanta is a contest for the future. As the catastrophic effects of climate change hammer our communities with hurricanes, heat waves, and forest fires, the stakes of this contest are clearer than ever. It will determine whether those who come after us inherit an inhabitable Earth or a police state nightmare. It is up to us to create a peaceful society that does not treat human life as expendable.
The forest defenders are trying to create a better world for all of us. We owe it to the people of Atlanta and to future generations everywhere to support them.
Here are some ways to support the defense of the forest in Atlanta:
- Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund to support legal costs for arrested protestors and ongoing legal action.
- Call on investors in the project to divest from Cop City (list of APF investors). Call on builders of the project to drop their construction contracts.
- Organize political solidarity bail funds, forest defense funds, and forest defense committees where you live.
- Participate in or organize local solidarity actions.
- Endorse and circulate this statement of solidarity. Email [email protected].