Concerns and demands for investigation of the fatal police shooting of Tortuguita are growing.
The Atlanta public safety training center’s land disturbance permit (LDP) is being challenged by a member of the project’s own review committee, and another member has resigned in outrage over the police killing of a protester at the site.
Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSAC) member Amy Taylor filed an appeal on Feb. 6 with the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA). The appeal claims the County improperly issued the LDP because the project would violate a state limit on sediment runoff and because its lease gives an inaccurately large number for the amount of green space set aside.
Meanwhile, CSAC member Nicole Morado quit on Jan. 18, the day that police killed protester Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, after the protester allegedly shot and wounded a state trooper during a raid of civil-disobedience campers on the site.
“Really I did not want to be affiliated with a project that is using police violence and taking lives…,” Morado said in a phone interview. “I’m still an interested resident. I just don’t want to be affiliated with that group any longer.”
“It was kind of getting uncomfortable about how some of the members were being OK with how the police were treating the protesters over exaggerated concern over safety of the police officers,” she (Morado) said. “I was like, gimme a break. They can handle this. They’re professionals. … [The protesters are] just a bunch of kids – nonviolent, Earth-loving people.”
TRAINING CENTER PERMIT CHALLENGED BY ITS OWN REVIEW COMMITTEE MEMBER. Another Quits Over Protester Killing by John Ruch, Saporta Report, Feb 6, 2023
(Atlanta police chief) Schierbaum was speaking about a march through midtown Atlanta, Georgia, last Saturday night that began peacefully, only to see several protesters separate and begin breaking windows of businesses and lighting fire to a police car. The marchers were protesting “Cop City”, an 85-acre, $90m training facility planned for South River forest, a wooded area south-east of the city.
They were also protesting the fatal police shooting of Tortuguita, a fellow activist, less than a week earlier, on a raid in the Atlanta forest where dozens have been tree-sitting and camping for more than a year.
The march, arrests of 18 activists charged under a state domestic terrorism law, a series of raids on the forest in recent weeks and Tortuguita’s killing have escalated tensions over Cop City. They culminated Thursday afternoon in the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, declaring a state of emergency. Under the order, up to 1,000 national guard troops will be available until 9 February or upon further order.
Georgia is seeking to define ‘Cop City’ protests as terrorism, experts say. Actions by police match rhetoric from state politicians seeking to define a largely peaceful protest movement as terrorism by Timothy Pratt, The Guardian, Jan 28, 2023
Brian Kemp, the Georgia governor who declared a state of emergency and mobilized 1,000 members of the national guard over the (Atlanta) protests, has blamed “out-of-state rioters” and a “network of militant activists who have committed similar acts of domestic terrorism across the country” for the troubles.
Georgia’s response to the protests follows an alarming pattern of environmental and land rights defenders across the US being threatened, arrested and charged with increasingly drastic crimes, including terrorism, for opposing oil and gas pipelines or the destruction of forests or waterways, advocates claim.
“This was meant as a chilling deterrent, to show that the state can kill and jail environmental defenders with impunity. It reflects a trend towards escalation and violence to distract from the real issue of advancing corporate interests over lands,” said Nick Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.
Atlanta shooting part of alarming US crackdown on environmental defenders. Twenty states have enacted laws restricting rights to peaceful protest, as environmentalists are increasingly criminalized by Oliver Milman and Nina Lakhani, The Guardian, Feb 2, 2023.
Two editorials on the $90m, 85-acre project, called “Cop City” by activists, recently appeared in the New York Times, both calling attention to flaws in the democratic process that led Atlanta city council to approve the training center in late 2021.
Students and faculty from Atlanta-area schools Emory University, Morehouse College, Spelman College and other historically Black schools also issued statements this week, urging the schools to denounce the project.
Three members of Congress – Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush and Senator Ed Markey – have called for an independent investigation into Tortuguita’s death, who law enforcement officials say fired first, wounding a Georgia state patrol officer.
More recently, opposition to development in South River forest has included neighborhood associations, established environmental groups such as the Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter, local schools, Atlanta-area citizens and others. About 70% of more than 1,000 comments to Atlanta city council in advance of their September 2021 vote on the project also opposed the project, according to an independent analysis.
‘COP CITY’ OPPOSITION SPREADS BEYOND GEORGIA FOREST DEFENDERS. Law Enforcement Training Center Has Drawn Attention And Concern From A Broad Range Of Local And National US Voices Who Worry About Its Impact by Timothy Pratt, The Guardian, Feb 9, 2023