A dangerous trend toward authoritarianism

The killing of Tortuguita scares me. As an environmental activist, I often participate with my friends in public actions to try to bring attention to our evolving environmental crisis. I’ve realized for years that white privilege meant I didn’t feel particularly threatened by police during such actions in the past.

I don’t think my Black, Indigenous and other friends of color have ever felt safe from policing.

Now that has changed for me. I do feel threatened in the presence of police. And what really scares me now is how this is an escalation toward authoritarianism.


When Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, ten young people in Indianapolis drove to Ferguson to see how they could help. Prior to the trip they didn’t know each other. They met via social media. I was loosely associated with Indy 10 because one of the members was a Quaker.

When it became known that Indy 10 planned to hold a rally during the Indianapolis 500 Parade, they received numerous death threats. They did not hold the rally then but did a short while later. This photo is from that rally. There was a palpable feeling of fear, but they gathered despite that.

Indy 10, Black Lives Matter, Indianapolis

During Buffalo Rebellion’s Climate Justice Summit last spring, we marched to the offices of MidAmerican Energy to protest their coal burning power plants in Iowa. The Des Moines police arrived, but seeing this as a peaceful gathering, left us alone.



Just three days ago we held a “Stop Police City” solidarity rally in Des Moines, at one of the companies supporting that project. There was some tension as a security guard aggressively hassled us. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/31/stop-cop-city-solidarity/

Authoritarianism

What happened in Atlanta is clearly part of a dangerous trend of US law enforcement attacking climate leaders

Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, a brave environmentalist known as Tortuguita, was shot and killed by the police on January 18 as they (Tortuguita was non-binary and used they/them pronouns) encamped in a forest Tortuguita and other activists had been trying to defend from being razed and turned into an enormous $90m “urban warfare” style police academy. This tragedy is an obscene escalation in the decades long war the United States has been waging on climate activists.

What’s even more troubling is the lack of contrition exhibited by the state that is responsible for Tortuguita’s death.

Environmentalist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran’s death is part of a disturbing trend by Steven Donziger, The Guardian, Feb 2, 2023

“What’s even more troubling is the lack of contrition exhibited by the state that is responsible for Tortuguita’s death.” We increasingly see this lack of contrition in our society. Politicians push increasingly extreme policies that are completely out of touch with the needs of those they are supposed to serve. Ideologies are being legislated. All this is consistent with increasing authoritarianism.


I recently wrote “There is a web of interconnections between the killing of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita), who was resisting the plan to build “Cop City” in Atlanta, resistance to a police academy in Chicago, and the epidemic of violence and killing by police in this country.” That point was also made in this email I just received from Defund The Police.

As we begin a new year and a new budget cycle, we’d like to share some powerful and timely resources, budget tools, and calls to action for divesting from police and reinvesting in our communities’ futures. This comes at a time when our communities are mourning and organizing for loved ones whose lives have been stolen by police violence in recent weeks.

  • In response to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, DeCarcerate Memphis is calling on local, state, and national organizations to sign onto this letter with the following demands: end the deployment of armed patrol officers in traffic enforcement; eliminate the use of pretextual stops, terminating all Federal funding support for them; require public police reports showing the location of each stop and the demographic characteristics of every driver; and disband the Jump-Out squads that operate to criminalize, intimidate, and too-often brutalize residents in low-income Black and Brown communities.
  • Defend the Atlanta Forest, part of the #StopCopCity movement, is calling for actions of solidarity following the police killing of Weelaunee forest defender Tortuguita. Check out their calls to action here, including a sign-on letter and telling investors in the project to divest from Cop City.
Defund The Police

Tell the Atlanta Police Foundation: Stop Cop City and Resign!

The Atlanta Police Foundation is trying to build the largest police training facility in the US (colloquially known as Cop City) in the Weelaunee Forest, an Atlanta watershed surrounded by a Black community who overwhelmingly oppose the project. The plans include military-grade training facilities, a mock city to practice urban warfare, dozens of shooting ranges, and a Black Hawk helicopter landing pad. Protestors are bravely sitting in trees to stop the deforestation of this sacred urban forest.

Forest defender, protestor, and friend Tortuguita was murdered in cold blood on Wednesday January 18th, 2023 by the Atlanta Police during a violent raid of the forest.

Take action against the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), who is the biggest supporter & funder of Cop City. Tortuguita’s blood is on their hands!

Use this form to automatically email APF board members & demand that they #StopCopCity and resign from the foundation.

Thanks to our friends at Resist and Abolish the Military Industrial Complex (RAM INC) for collecting this information and tweeting it out.

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-the-atlanta-police-foundation-stop-cop-city-and-resign?clear_id=true


Subject: Send a letter: Ask the Atlanta Police Foundation: Stop Cop City

The Atlanta Police Foundation is trying to build the largest police training facility in the US (colloquially known as Cop City) in the Weelaunee Forest, an Atlanta watershed surrounded by a Black community who overwhelmingly oppose the project. The plans include military-grade training facilities, a mock city to practice urban warfare, dozens of shooting ranges, and a Black Hawk helicopter landing pad. Protestors are bravely sitting in trees to stop the deforestation of this sacred urban forest. Forest defender, protestor, and friend Tortuguita was murdered in cold blood on Wednesday January 18th, 2023 by the Atlanta Police during a violent raid of the forest.

Take action against the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), who is the biggest supporter & funder of Cop City. Tortuguita’s blood is on their hands! Use this form to automatically email APF board members & demand that they #StopCopCity and resign from the foundation.

Thanks to our friends at Resist and Abolish the Military Industrial Complex (RAM INC) for collecting this information and tweeting it out.

Can you join me and write a letter?

Click here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-the-atlanta-police-foundation-stop-cop-city-and-resign?source=email&

Thanks!

No Cop Academy-Chicago

It’s clear what it means when the establishment proposes dramatically expanding the militarization of police as their response to police brutality and killings.

There is a web of interconnections between the killing of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita), who was resisting the plan to build “Cop City” in Atlanta, resistance to a police academy in Chicago, and the epidemic of violence and killing by police in this country.

Thursday, January 31, we had an action, “Stop Cop City” Solidarity in Des Moines.

(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/31/stop-cop-city-solidarity/ )



My friend Jon Krieg, who works at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), recently told me about the resistance to a proposal for a police training facility in Chicago, similar to “Cop City” in Atlanta. https://nocopacademy.com/

Debbie Southorn works for the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago, where she supports community efforts and youth organizing to end policing and reimagine community safety. In 2012, she co-founded the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, currently serves on the National Committee of the War Resisters League, and is a Board Member of the Chicago Freedom School.  She’s written about policing and white supremacy for outlets including TruthoutIn These Times, and The Intercept.   

Sophia: What is the cop academy? What do you want people to know about it? Why is it dangerous?

Debbie: In July of 2017, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, announced his plans to spend at least $95 million on a new cop academy on the west side of Chicago. He has been heralding this project as an important step towards reform of the police department, saying that this building will provide a clean slate for the Chicago Police Department (CPD). There are so many reasons why this is dangerous. We know that this isn’t about having a kinder, gentler Chicago police department. 

This facility is being built so that the police department can have an expanded shooting range, so that they can do more mock raids. This is not about de-escalation and anti-bias training. They are trying to say that this is a response to the scathing Department of Justice report which delineated the realities of racism and violence that are plaguing this department. The report was issued in response to the killing of Laquan McDonald and the subsequent cover-up. 

PART ONE: No Cop Academy: What you should know about Chicago’s proposed police academy by the American Friends Service Committee, Nov 19, 2018


https://nocopacademy.com/

https://youtu.be/h2_1-J1100s

From 2017-2019, Chicago Black youth powerfully organized and led an effort against the construction of a $95 million dollar cop academy, and demanded the city of Chicago fund youth and communities instead. This upcoming documentary chronicles the explosive #NoCopAcademy campaign through those who lived it. “Real community safety comes from fully-funded schools and mental health centers, robust after-school and job-training programs, and social and economic justice. We want investment in our communities, not expanded resources for police.” #NoCopAcademy

SoapBox Productions and Organizing


#NoCopAcademy is a grassroots campaign launched by Assata’s Daughters, Black Lives Matter – Chicago, People’s Response Team, For The People Artists Collective, and many more grassroots organizations to mobilize against Rahm Emanuel’s plans to spend $95 million for a massive training center for Chicago police in West Garfield Park on the city’s West Side. We refuse any expansion of policing in Chicago, and demand accountability for decades of violence. Instead, we demand resources for schools and youth. This video offers the unique perspective of students who attend school one block away from the current cop academy, and young people who live adjacent to the site of the proposed expanded cop academy. What does it feel like to go to school next to cops every day? What would it feel like to have a shooting range, live scenario trainings, and a swimming pool for police next door to your high school gymnasium? What would you really need to feel safe in your neighborhood? In addition to centering the experiences that Black youth and youth of color have had with police in their communities, this piece goes the extra step by highlighting the ways young people are at the forefront of one of the most pressing issues in Chicago. The youth organizing team of #NoCopAcademy are organizing meetings, engaging their neighbors, meeting with City Council, engaged in direct action – all to demand an end to the violences that Black young people have experienced at the hands of the police and the city alike, and to demand schools for kids, not cops.

#NoCopAcademy NoCopAcademy.com | IG: @nocoapacademy

Schools for Kids, Not Cops 


Protesters who oppose a police training facility in West Garfield Park were escorted from a City Council committee meeting on Tuesday. (Note: This video was originally published on May 22, 2018)

Police training facility protesters. Chicago Sun-Times


Police killing of Tyre Nichols should remind us of five lessons from 2020
In the face of normalized police violence and ongoing systemic racism, Mary Zerkel of the Chicago Peacebuilding Program writes about why we need to keep pushing for community safety for all beyond policing. Lessons from 2020 include:

  1. Reformist reforms don’t work.
  2. We need police out of traffic stops.
  3. We need police out of mental health response.
  4. Police must stop targeting social justice organizers.
  5. We need alternatives to police response to keep all community members safe.

Yes, policing is still deadly. The police killing of Tyre Nichols remind us: Let’s not forget the lessons of 2020 by MARY ZERKEL, American Friends Service Committee, JAN 31, 2023


https://afsc.org/action/think-twice-calling-police

Context of Killing Tortuguita

Why has the killing of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita) affected me so profoundly? Does it bother you?

One of the main reasons I write so much is to help me understand things. This is the tenth article I’ve written about Tortuguita. (https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=tortuguita).

One thing I’m realizing this morning from the article quoted below, Fred Hampton and Mumia’s Stories Shed Light on Tortuguita, is that, of course, the genocide of millions of Indigenous people in this country were killed defending Mother Earth.

Tortuguita’s story is yet another one related to power and oppression. These stories have enhanced significance as the political climate is becoming increasingly, rapidly authoritarian. Fueled by outrageous political trampling of our First Amendment rights. And taking away the processes by which we were sometimes able to affect change. Such as voting rights, and blatant attempts to enforce White supremacy.

Dissent must be violently put down if authoritarianism is to succeed. The public must be terrorized, afraid to resist any of the increasingly extreme measures targeting our freedom. Violently enforced by increasingly militaristic police. I remember how shocked I was when first seeing police in military gear, using military vehicles to quell the riots from another police killing. That of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Sadly, that is now routine.

Armies of officials are clothed in uniform, invested with authority, armed with the instruments of violence & death & conditioned to believe that they can intimidate, maim or kill Negroes with the same recklessness that once motivated the slaveowner.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It has never been easy to get people to come to protests. But it is now even more so. It wasn’t surprising that only nine of us showed up yesterday in solidarity to stop “Cop City”. And not surprising to see Atlanta officials moving forward on the “Cop City” facility.

Des Moines, Iowa, 1/31/2013, https://www.instagram.com/buffalo_rebellion/

ATLANTA (AP) — In the wake of the shooting death of an environmental activist, Atlanta-area officials reiterated Tuesday that they are moving forward with plans to construct a huge police and firefighter training center that protesters derisively refer to as “Cop City.”

It was one of officials’ most full-throated defenses of a plan that has faced consistent pushback from both locals and out-of-state leftist activists, some of whom moved into the South River Forest over a year ago and built platforms in surrounding trees. Self-described “forest defenders” say the project involves cutting down so many trees that it would be environmentally damaging. They also oppose investing so much money in a project which they say will be used to practice “urban warfare.”

Despite ‘Cop City’ protests, Atlanta moves forward with plan by R.J. RICO, Associated Press, Jan 31, 2023


Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about organizing, solidarity and the work of making change. I’m your host, writer and organizer Kelly Hayes. Today, we are talking about the struggle to Stop Cop City in Atlanta and DeKalb County, Georgia, and the death of forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, who was gunned down by police on the morning of January 18. The Guardian has called the deadly shooting “unprecedented” in the history of U.S. environmental protest. While the killing of protesters, including environmentalists, is not unprecedented by any means in this country, law enforcement entering a forest occupation and killing a protester does mark an escalation of state violence for this era. Co-strugglers have described Terán as “a trained medic, a loving partner, a dear friend, a brave soul, and so much more.”

The Death of a Forest Defender at “Stop Cop City” by Kelly Hayes, TRUTHOUT, January 26,2023

We must not sever this shooting from the legacies of violence that clarify the character of the system and purpose of law enforcement.

Kelly Hayes & Alana Yu-lan Price

Tortuguita is not here to tell us their side of the story. But while Tortuguita cannot speak, there are voices among us who can lend us more insight and context in this moment.

There are people among us who can offer such insight because these events have a lineage. Experts have declared that Tortuguita’s killing marks the first time that an environmental activist has been killed by U.S. law enforcement. While their death does mark a historic escalation in these times, it is not altogether unprecedented, and we are unlikely to make sense of these events unless we consider them in their historic and global contexts. For example, many people in this country have died defending the Earth, as Indigenous people were resisting the destruction of the natural world while also resisting the acts of genocide committed against them, because to Native communities, this resistance was one and the same — defending their own lives, and defending the land and water.

I see the life and death of Tortuguita through the lens of nearly four decades spent in the struggle to free veteran Black Panther and MOVE sympathizer Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as to monitor the human rights of political prisoners who are “invisible men and women” in the United States.

I am struck first by the fact that in the name of building “Cop City,” the public space we occupy, the air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the streets we live in, become crime scenes. Just as Mumia was driving while Black, just as Rayshard Brooks was sleeping while Black, just as Elijah McClain was going home while Black. Just as wild species are driven out because of deforestation.

One deja vu aspect of the police narrative spun by the police agencies in Tortuguita’s case is the criminalization of the victim. Tortuguita, as the police tale goes, is supposed to have shot first. Are we really to believe that the gentle, peace-loving, highly intelligent Tortuguita — as quotes from him now show — would have shot at a police officer, knowing how many were present? After Tortuguita’s brother phoned the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to find out how his sibling died, he concluded: “They’re not investigating the death of Manuel — they’re investigating Manuel.”

Fred Hampton and Mumia’s Stories Shed Light on Tortuguita, Julia Wright Says. Veteran Black Panther Julia Wright explains what we should remember about the past in order to understand this moment by Kelly Hayes & Alana Yu-lan Price, TRUTHOUT

We need an independent investigation and an autopsy not only of the body of a beloved freedom fighter, but of the corporate body politic capable of such a crime. Independent research is needed from liberation movement to liberation movement that will help build resistance to state terrorism — a resistance that will link one ground zero to another, from Flint, Michigan, to Jackson, Mississippi; from Standing Rock to chlordecone-contaminated Martinique; from Mumia’s Philadelphia to Atlanta’s Forest Defenders.

Fred Hampton and Mumia’s Stories Shed Light on Tortuguita

Tortuguita’s cautious voice rang out from a platform amid the tall pines the first time Vienna met them: “Who goes there?” she remembers them calling. The tree-dweller, who chose the moniker Tortuguita – Spanish for “Little Turtle” – over their given name, was perched above the forest floor in the woods just outside Atlanta last summer. Vienna quickly identified herself, and Tortuguita’s watchfulness melted into the bubbly, curious, funny persona so many in the forest knew. They welcomed the newcomer and helped her settle in alongside the other self-proclaimed “forest defenders” on an 85-acre (34-hectare) site officials plan to develop into a huge police and firefighter training center. Protesters derisively call it “Cop City.”

“It was a magical experience for me, being able to live out our ideals,” Vienna told The Associated Press, recalling how the protesters shared clothing, food and money, all while engaging in community activism. She and Tortuguita quickly fell in love during those warm, late summer days.

Protesters: ‘Cop City’ activist’s killing doesn’t make sense BY R.J. RICO, ASSOCIATED PRESS, JANUARY 30, 2023


“Stop Cop City” solidarity

Solidarity rallies are spreading throughout the country in response to the killing of Manuel Teran (Tortuguita) on January 18th.

Rallies In Solidarity with Fight to Stop ‘Cop City’ Spread After Police Murder Forest Defender

Across the US, people held vigils to mourn the police murder of forest defender, Manuel Teran, 26, also known as Tortuguita, on Wednesday, January 18th and to rally in solidarity with the struggle against the destruction of the Weelaunee forest and the construction of the counter-insurgency training facility known as “Cop City.” 

Many actions are displayed on this website. https://itsgoingdown.org/rallies-spread-after-murder-cop-city/

It’s Going Down, January 19, 2023


We visited the local office of Cushman and Wakefield. They are a global corporation and John O’Neill is the President of U.S. Multifamily Capital Markets of the global firm. We asked the president at the local office to contact him to cut ties with the Atlanta Police Foundation. He confirmed that he did, for what it’s worth.

Following are some of the photos I took at our action this morning.


Movement to Stop Cop City grows

What do you think about “Cop City”?

Cop City is a proposed $90 million, 300-acre police training compound backed by the Atlanta Police Foundation. It will be the largest police training facility in the US, to include a mock city where police will train with firearms, tear gas, helicopters, and explosive devices to repress protest and mass arrest.

This is exactly the opposite of what those of us in the abolition (of police and prisons) movement are working for. All the more concerning because Cop City would be used to train police from all over the country. Imagine your local police going to Cop City and returning with all this knowledge about militarized policing and repressing dissent.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/abolition/ )

It’s impossible for me to not see the connections of the police killings of Manuel Teran, Tyre Nichols, George Floyd, and hundreds of others.


A coalition of more than 1,300 climate and racial justice groups from across the United States on Monday joined a call for an independent investigation into the police killing of forest defender Manuel Paez Terán earlier this month, and demanded the resignation of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

The groups noted that Dickens and the Atlanta City Council have the authority to terminate the land lease for Cop City in the forest and called for the mayor to do so immediately, denouncing his strong support for the Atlanta Police Foundation’s proposal.

Ikiya Collective, a signatory of the letter, noted that the training slated to take place at Cop City “will impact organizing across the country” as police are trained to respond to popular uprisings.

“This is a national issue,” said the collective. “Climate justice and police brutality are interconnected, which is why we are joining the Stop Cop City calls to action with the frontline communities in Atlanta.”

1,300+ US Groups Demand Atlanta Mayor’s Resignation Over Forest Defender Tortuguita’s Killing by Julia Conley, Common Dreams, January 30, 2023



I attended a vigil for Tortuguita in Chicago the day after they were killed by police. One of the signs posted beside candles and other tributes included words taken from an interview Tortuguita gave to writer David Peisner. This is what they said of the movement to Stop Cop City:

If enough people decide to do this with nonviolent action, you can overwhelm the infrastructure [of the state]. That’s something they fear more than violence in the streets. Because violence in the streets, they’ll win. They have the guns for it. We don’t.

The Death of a Forest Defender at “Stop Cop City” by Kelly Hayes, TRUTHOUT, January 26,2023


NLG National joins our Atlanta and University of Georgia Chapters and comrades in mourning the devastating loss of a beloved community member. Tortuguita was a kind, passionate, and caring activist, who coordinated mutual aid and served as a trained medic. The Atlanta Community Press Collective is compiling memories and accounts of their life, and we encourage everyone to honor and remember Tortuguita through the words of those who love them.

As radical movement legal activists, NLG recognizes that this horrific murder and the related arrests are part of a nationwide attack on protesters, land defenders, and marginalized folks, especially Black, Indigenous, and other activists of color. Labeling these demonstrators “domestic terrorists” is a harrowing repetition of No DAPL activist Jessica Reznicek’s terrorist enhancement last year, and both are clear indicators that the people in power view protesters and environmental activists as enemies of the state.

NLG STATEMENT IN SOLIDARITY WITH ATLANTA FOREST DEFENDERS, January 28, 2023


Jessica Reznicek

As mentioned in the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) statement above, domestic terrorism charges are being brought to stifle nonviolent civil disobedience as part of a nationwide attack on protesters, land defenders, and marginalized folks, especially Black, Indigenous, and other activists of color.

A PANEL OF three Trump-appointed judges this week upheld an excessive eight-year prison sentence handed down to climate activist Jessica Reznicek, ruling that a terrorism enhancement attached to her sentence was “harmless.”

The terror enhancement, which dramatically increased Reznicek’s sentence from its original recommended range, set a troubling precedent. Decided by a lower court in 2021, it contends that Reznicek’s acts against private property were “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government.” The appellate justices’ decision to uphold her sentence, callously dismissing the challenge to her terrorism enhancement, doubles down on a chilling message: Those who take direct action against rapacious energy corporations can be treated as enemies of the state.

As her legal battles continue, Reznicek, whose acts of sabotage place her firmly on the right side of history, if not the law, deserves full-throated public support. As she noted in her 2017 statement claiming responsibility for the actions against the Dakota Access pipeline: “We acted from our hearts and never threatened human life nor personal property. What we did do was fight a private corporation that has run rampant across our country seizing land and polluting our nation’s water supply.”

Right-Wing Judges Say It’s “Harmless” to Label Climate Activist a Terrorist. A court upheld Jessica Reznicek’s excessive sentence for vandalism aimed at stopping the Dakota Access pipeline by Natasha Lennard, The Intercept, June 8, 2022


Stop Cop City

Stop Cop City (SCC) or Defend Atlanta Forest is a decentralized social movement in AtlantaGeorgiaUnited States, whose goal is to stop construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center by the Atlanta Police Foundation and the City of Atlanta. Opponents of the facility are concerned about the growth of policing in the city, which has witnessed several protests against police violence following the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the killing of Rayshard Brooks,[2] both by police officers.[3]

The proposed location for the facility is the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, and opponents of the facility particularly object to this location because of its history and because destruction of the forest conflicts with their concerns about environmental justice, and attempts to preserve the land as an urban park and conservation area.[4]

Stop Cop City, Wikipedia



We lost someone unnecessarily to police violence

How do you feel about the police shooting treesitter Manuel Teran (Tortuguita) in Atlanta?

I’ve been wondering why I felt so much sorrow about this. Some of the statements below have shed some light on this. My whole life I have been in resistance to capitalism and the state. I quickly learned there were such a small number of others engaged in this work, at least in this country. I felt a connection to, respect for them.

I’ve been a lifelong environmentalist. Among other things, refusing to own a car. So, I identify with the treesitters trying to protect the forest, the environment, Mother Earth.

For the past several years I’ve become involved in the abolition of police and prisons work.

I’ve just recently come across the concept of prefigurative work, which is living today in a manner consistent with the society you are working to create. All these concepts guide our Mutual Aid work (see: Points of Unity, Des Moines Mutual Aid below).

My heart is hurting over the death of Tortuguita, a forest defender I never met, for so many reasons. One is the loss of this young person, under any circumstance. Theirs was a life cut far too short. I also feel a sense of kinship in loss. I know many other activists who have worked encampments and tree-sits are also feeling this way, because there’s something special about that kind of struggle. There’s something in the prefigurative work, in the effort to rehearse the world we want, to care for each other, in the face of the elements, in the face of police, even when you’re under siege – it’s beautiful, messy work, and whether our battles are won or lost, we carry it with us, always

The Death of a Forest Defender at “Stop Cop City” by Kelly Hayes, TRUTHOUT, January 26,2023

I’m sharing this video from Unicorn Riot again, to show the excessive police presence at the Weelaunee Forest.

Those in the forest at the time of the police raid refute the police contention that Tortuguita first fired at the police. But the statement in this video, “today we lost someone unnecessarily to police violence” is true. They would not be dead if the police had not raided the forest.


So, today we lost someone unnecessarily to police violence. I believe everybody here agrees with the fact that nobody should die at the hands of the state. And in the midst of this grief and sorrow I want you to make space for that. We are organizing for a future free from oppression, free from violence.

Title: Atlanta Community Reacts to Police Killing of Forest Defender Manuel Teran
Uploader: Unicorn Riot
Uploaded: Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 4:16 PM EST via Parallel Uploader
License bync


  1. We believe in working shoulder to shoulder and standing in solidarity with all oppressed communities
    We ourselves are oppressed, and our mutual aid work is a fight for our collective liberation. We do not believe in a top-down model of charity. Instead, we contrast our efforts at horizontal mutual aid, the fostering of mutually beneficial relationships and communities, to dehumanizing and colonizing charity.
  2. We believe in community autonomy.
    We believe that the communities we live and organize in have been largely excluded from state social services, but intensely surveilled and policed by the state repressive apparatus. Capitalism is fundamentally unable to meet people’s needs. We want to build self-sustaining communities that are independent of the capitalist state, both materially and ideologically, and can resist its repression.
  3. We are police and prison abolitionists.
    Abolition and the mutual aid that we practice are inextricably linked. We don’t rely on capitalist institutions or the police to do our work. We believe in building strong and resilient communities which make police obsolete, including community systems of accountability and crisis intervention.
  4. We work to raise the political consciousness of our communities.
    Part of political education is connecting people’s lived experiences to a broader political perspective. Another component is working to ensure that people can meet their basic needs. It is difficult to organize for future liberation when someone is entrenched in day-to-day struggle.

Atlanta, Georgia – The ongoing protests against the construction of a police training center in the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta, Georgia are a testament to the spirit of resistance that was ignited by the Black Lives Matter movement and the George Floyd Protests of 2020. For two years, brave activists and protesters have occupied the forest and taken to the streets to demand that the city reverse its decision to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to further fund a police force that has historically been used to violently repress, control and limit the power of working class people and people of color in particular.

But the protesters in Atlanta are not only fighting against further wasteful spending on police and the “Cop City” training center, they are also fighting against the destruction of the region’s natural environment and the further pollution and degradation of land that will disproportionately affect the poor and working-class who live in the area. As those who oppose the massive development (which would include, among other things, several shooting ranges and a landing pad for Black Hawk helicopters!) have made clear, the forest is a vital part of the wetlands that help to contain and filter pollution and rainwater, preventing and limiting the threat of floods to the predominantly Black neighborhoods that border the forest.

IN STANDOFF OVER COP CITY, POLICE ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS by James Dennis Hoff, Left Voice, January 29, 2023


In this episode of “Movement Memos,” Atlanta organizer Micah Herskind and host Kelly Hayes discuss the death of Tortuguita, a forest defender who was gunned down by police while resisting the construction of “Cop City.” “It’s all hands on deck for the forces of the prison-industrial complex, the forces of capitalism … they are willing to use any and all tactics and tools available to them, whether that’s literal murder, whether that’s trying to deter the broader movement by slapping people with domestic terrorism charges. As environmental catastrophe is upon us, I think the forces of capital are organizing themselves,” says Herskind.

Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about organizing, solidarity and the work of making change. I’m your host, writer and organizer Kelly Hayes. Today, we are talking about the struggle to Stop Cop City in Atlanta and DeKalb County, Georgia, and the death of forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, who was gunned down by police on the morning of January 18. The Guardian has called the deadly shooting “unprecedented” in the history of U.S. environmental protest. While the killing of protesters, including environmentalists, is not unprecedented by any means in this country, law enforcement entering a forest occupation and killing a protester does mark an escalation of state violence for this era. Co-strugglers have described Terán as “a trained medic, a loving partner, a dear friend, a brave soul, and so much more.”

A lot of people may shy away from solidarity with the forest defenders, because the police are claiming that Tortuguita fired first. But we have plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the police narrative, and we cannot abandon this struggle, as the violent and legal repression of protesters has implications for all of our fights against state violence and environmental destruction.

My heart is hurting over the death of Tortuguita, a forest defender I never met, for so many reasons. One is the loss of this young person, under any circumstance. Theirs was a life cut far too short. I also feel a sense of kinship in loss. I know many other activists who have worked encampments and tree-sits are also feeling this way, because there’s something special about that kind of struggle. There’s something in the prefigurative work, in the effort to rehearse the world we want, to care for each other, in the face of the elements, in the face of police, even when you’re under siege – it’s beautiful, messy work, and whether our battles are won or lost, we carry it with us, always. Ruth Wilson Gilmore tells us that “where life is precious, life is precious.” In every encampment and forest defense scenario I’ve been a part of, people were trying to cultivate a place where life was precious and where people were precious to one another. In those spaces, I have seen things that made me believe we could remake the world. When I think about all of that power and potential, the thought of a young person, who was out there for the love of the trees, being struck down — it just rips right through me.

The Death of a Forest Defender at “Stop Cop City” by Kelly Hayes, TRUTHOUT, January 26,2023


In Tortuguita’s own words, 

“The right kind of resistance is peaceful because that’s where we win. We’re not going to beat them at violence. They’re very, very good at violence. We’re not. We win through nonviolence. That’s really the only way we can win. We don’t want more people to die. We don’t want Atlanta to turn into a war zone.”

and

“The abolitionist mission isn’t done until every prison is empty,” Teran told me. “When there are no more cops, when the land has been given back, that’s when it’s over.” I must’ve shaken my head a little at the grandiosity of this statement because Teran immediately broke into a sheepish smile. “I don’t expect to live to see that day, necessarily. I mean, hope so. But I smoke.” 


On Wednesday, January 18, Georgia State Patrol murdered Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, who was camping in a public park to defend the Weelaunee Forest and stop the construction of Cop City. Over the weekend, six protesters were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism. In solidarity with the protesters, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls for an end to the construction of Cop City and the ongoing police brutality against demonstrators.

NLG National joins our Atlanta and University of Georgia Chapters and comrades in mourning the devastating loss of a beloved community member. Tortuguita was a kind, passionate, and caring activist, who coordinated mutual aid and served as a trained medic. The Atlanta Community Press Collective is compiling memories and accounts of their life, and we encourage everyone to honor and remember Tortuguita through the words of those who love them.

As radical movement legal activists, NLG recognizes that this horrific murder and the related arrests are part of a nationwide attack on protesters, land defenders, and marginalized folks, especially Black, Indigenous, and other activists of color. Labeling these demonstrators “domestic terrorists” is a harrowing repetition of No DAPL activist Jessica Reznicek’s terrorist enhancement last year, and both are clear indicators that the people in power view protesters and environmental activists as enemies of the state.

Though Atlanta city officials continue to insist that Cop City will keep the community “safe,” the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest will undoubtedly exacerbate the climate crisis and expand the policing of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color in Atlanta. The ongoing arrests and brutalization of demonstrators opposing the deforestation of stolen Muscogee land proves that policing is the true threat to our collective safety.

We reject the various attempts by the Georgia State Patrol and Atlanta officials to disregard these community members as “outside agitators.” This kind of language attempts to discredit the very important, justice-oriented goals of the community members defending the Forest.

Our comrades defending the Weelaunee Forest are advocating for racial, environmental, and economic justice. In solidarity with their efforts, NLG encourages everyone to support the movement in whatever way is most accessible to them. Please see below for information directly from the organizers about the best ways to support their efforts:

  • 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.

NLG STATEMENT IN SOLIDARITY WITH ATLANTA FOREST DEFENDERS, January 28, 2023


PRESS RELEASE: Emory doctors condemn police violence against Cop City protests

Monday, January 23, 2023
Defend the Atlanta Forest has received the following submitted statement:

As health care workers, we strongly condemn the repeated escalation of police violence in their interactions with members of the public protesting the construction of Cop City. On various instances, in both the streets of Atlanta as well as in the Weelaunee Forest/Intrenchment Creek Park which is under threat of destruction, police have used violence including reports of toxic chemical irritants such as tear gas, rubber bullets and now live ammunition which most recently resulted in the police killing of one of the forest defenders, Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Teran. A year after police in the U.S. killed more people than any prior year since records started to be tracked in 2013, we recognize violence perpetrated by police to be harmful to public health. We are also concerned by the detentions and the charges of domestic terrorism levied at individuals arrested while protesting the destruction of the forest. This fits within the context of a disturbing pattern and threat to public health whereby the USA has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world; perpetuated by a judicial and legislative system that targets Black and Indigenous peoples, migrants, those living in poverty, those who are unhoused, as well as environmental and social activists.

The construction of Cop City will not solve a government’s failures to listen to the wishes of members of the community, its failure to stop the widening gap between rich and poor, the lack of affordable housing, the negative effects of gentrification and racism, or the poor and unequal access to nutritious food, healthcare and mental health services. As physicians, we recognize that these failures have negative consequences on the public’s mental and physical health. Instead of strengthening community health, Cop City will be a dangerous attempt to invest in harmful and violent solutions, strengthening the corporate and political powers that seek profit over the well-being of the people, while simultaneously eroding and transforming natural and public spaces into privately owned property. The public health evidence for developing healthy and thriving communities strongly opposes the expansion of policing and its subsequent violence. All Atlanta communities deserve more life affirming investments, not those that value private property over human life.

Signed,
Michel Khoury, MD, Co-director of Georgia Human Rights Clinic
Amy Zeidan, MD, Co-director of Georgia Human Rights Clinic
Mark Spencer, MD, Co-Leader, Internal Medicine Advocacy Group
Suhaib Abaza, MD, Co-founder, Campaign Against Racism ATL chapter
Social Medicine Consortium



They Found Us

Following are stories about the documentary They Found Us by Curt Sipihko Paskwawimostos who is a member of George Gordon First Nation. My friend Christine Nobiss is also a member and has been working to get funds to support the video. The documentary is about the search for unmarked graves at their rez, George Gordon First Nation.

If you click on this image, you will see a remarkable and powerful 3D image that can be moved using your mouse. In an eerie and disturbing way, you find the children.

Well my documentary They Found us got a nomination for best documentary Althens Film Freeway fest. If I win I will be put in for best movie of the year. We’re I would be going to Athens Greece 🇬🇷 for the film fest 🤞🤞🤞❤️❤️❤️🦅🦅🦅
Let’s just see what happens ❤️❤️
Curt Sipihko Paskwawimostos


As described in the following letter, the project was originally for a compilation of Elder’s narratives. But during the initial interviews, the findings of the 215 bodies outside the Kamloops residential school changed the direction of the documentary. To focus on the process that George Gordon’s First Nation was undertaking related to the unmarked graves or bodies at the GGFN reserve’s residential school.

March 27, 2022

This letter in regards to a request for financial support for a documentary title “They Found Us”, to support community presentations of this film that I produced.

My name is Curt Young and I a member of the George Gordon’s First Nation.  I am a descendant of Mike Longman, along with my mother Longman-Young; both members of this nation.  The development of this documentary was an intent for myself to learn more about my maternal familial lineage, as I had not grown up on GGFN and wanted more connections to my cultural heritage.  I applied for the “Peoples Investment Grant”, while residing in Calgary and was a successful candidate.  These funds were intended to financially support a compilation of Elder’s narratives, however, during the initial interviews, the findings of the 215 bodies outside of the Kamloops residential schools, inspired myself to change the direction of the documentary.  I decided to focus more on the process that GGFN reserve’s undertaking of a ground search outside of the local residential school; to see if there were any unmarked graves or bodies buried there. 

Over the past year, I have made three trips to GGFN to obtain footage of the community’s initial activities related to the ground search of the area.  Aside from the footage of the community, I also have compiled interviews from GGFN members, and other Indigenous people, including leaders and Elders, that have shared their own narratives and experience with residential schools.  The budget that I was provided by the grant I received was allocated to travel costs associated with these trips to GGFN, along with the rental of video technological equipment, necessary to create the documentary.  I have spent time and effort into producing this documentary and have been promoting it through various online platforms, along with connections I have within Indigenous communities, both urban and rural.  I have much interest in public showings of this documentary, particularly since June is coming up, with it being National Indigenous Peoples month.  One showing that I have confirmed is the first week of June; at Fort Calgary.  Although I am quite excited for the interest and opportunities, I would like to honour my home community and acknowledge the stories that are compiled in my documentary, by having the first public showing of “They Found Us” on GGFN.

In order for myself to bring the documentary to GGFN I am requesting funds to support my travel, accommodation and honorarium for traditional drummers and possibly a dancer to create a healing and culturally safe space for a community show.  My first showing that I have booked for this documentary is June 4, 2022, thus, I am asking to have funds to showcase the documentary on GGFN prior to this date. 

Curt Sipihko Paskwawimostos


History of involvement of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friends

My relative, Curt Sipihko Paskwawimostos, created “They Found Us”. It’s a documentary about the search for unmarked graves at our rez, George Gordon First Nation. I hope we can bring it here to Iowa in the near future. My cousin Janna Pratt is featured in the film.

“I thought it would be important to document these searches and capture some of the stories told by members that were forced to go to these institutions. It’s a first hand look into some of the experiences survived in residential school.”

The film delves into members’ recollections along with the process towards the first ground search of Gordon Residential School before Ground Penetration Radar (GPR) in 2021. This is only the beginning…

I want to say thank you to Jeff Kisling and the Iowa Quaker community for the donation that will help get the film seen. If others would like to help support this work, hit me up.

Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss


During the 2017 annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) there was panel discussion about building bridges with native peoples. The panel consisted of Peter Clay, an Iowa Friend, Donnielle Wanatee from the Meskwaki Settlement, and Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss, one of the most active Indigenous leaders in the Midwest. All three have played a large role in my connections with Native Americans since. 

In February 2018, I was part of a group who went to Minneapolis to protest US Bank’s funding of oil pipelines. Sikowis spoke at that gathering. 

I began to get to know Sikowis when she and I were among a small group of native and non-native people who walked and camped for eight days along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa. Iowa Friend Peter Clay was also on this First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.  Jon Krieg (AFSC) joined us for the first day. And my Scattergood School roommate Lee Tesdell participated in one of the evening discussions during the March. Another Iowa Yearly Meeting Friend, Liz Oppenheimer, organized a time of worship sharing and prayer among Friends each morning, supporting our sacred journey. 

Last year I was clerk of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee. The committee had a small budget to support organizations doing justice work. Last year we were led to a choice of rather than giving token amounts to a number of organizations, to instead see if an opportunity arose to give the entire budget to make an impact on the work that presented itself. I believe because of our discussions about the residential schools, Sikowis asked if Quakers could support showings of the film “They Found Us” that had been made about the residential school of her nation, the George Gordon First Nation. Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee gladly agreed to donate our budget to this.


Ay hai kitatamihin, 
Sikowis (Fierce), aka, Christine Nobiss, she/her
Plains Cree/Saulteaux, George Gordon First Nation
Executive Director, Great Plains Action Society
sikowis@greatplainsaction.org 
Web – greatplainsaction.org
FB – @GreatPlainsActionSociety
IG – @greatplainsactionsociety
Tw – @PlainsAction

Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán

This is a continuation of news and reflections about the first killing of an environmental activist in this country. Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán was killed in Atlanta on January 21, 2023. Other stories I’ve written about this are listed in this table. This troubles me because I am an environmental activist, as are many of my friends. I don’t like to think of us as targets of extreme police brutality. Or charged as “domestic terrorists”.

Many stories tell of Tortuguita’s advocacy for nonviolence. Which makes it seem unlikely that they shot at police. But that is what the police are saying.

In Solidarity with Atlanta’s Forest Defendershttps://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/23/in-solidarity-with-atlantas-forest-defenders/
Do you trust the police?https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/25/do-you-trust-the-police/
Killing and Criminalizing Activistshttps://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/26/killing-and-criminalizing-activists/
Modern-Day Lynchingshttps://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/27/modern-day-lynchings/

WASHINGTON – On January 21, 2023, Atlanta Forest Defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán was shot and killed by Atlanta police. Terán, an environmental activist, was peacefully protesting the clearing of South River Forest land near Atlanta, where the state plans to build a new military-grade training facility. In recent weeks police have conducted multiple raids on environmental activists camping in the forest, which was identified as a key area for mitigating climate change impacts in Atlanta.  

Terán’s killing sets a dangerous precedent for environmental activism in the U.S., while over the last decade, thousands of environmental defenders around the globe have been and continue to be murdered, imprisoned or arrested for defending the planet. 

 Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth U.S., said this: 

Friends of the Earth U.S. expresses our solidarity with those outraged and in mourning at the police killing of Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, while protecting the South River Forest from logging and exploitation. His killing is a domestic example of the increasing threat of death faced by environmental defenders across the globe, while protecting their communities from companies and governments seeking to log, mine, dam rivers or extract fossil fuels.   

Police brutality and the militarization of the police force is just one of the many violent and unconscionable attempts to crush those fighting to protect our planet. Indigenous Peoples, local communities and environmental defenders are the planet’s greatest caretakers and advocates. Friends of the Earth U.S. stands against the brutal treatment of these heroes around the globe. 

Statement on Manuel Terán’s killing, Friends of the Earth, January 24, 2023

Title: Atlanta Community Reacts to Police Killing of Forest Defender Manuel Teran
Uploader: Unicorn Riot
Uploaded: Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 4:16 PM EST via Parallel Uploader
License bync


Confluence

Doesn’t it seem that we are in a time when many swollen tributaries are coming together, causing massive flooding?

Not only literally from environmental chaos.

While I’ve been devasted by the killing of land defender Manuel Teran Tortuguita in Atlanta, there is the emerging story of yet another police murder, that of Tyre Nichols in Tennessee. This against a background of mass shootings occurring nearly daily. Sometimes more than one a day. School children drilled on what to do in response to an active shooter.

The violence of the militarization of policing. When Congress cannot pass laws related to gun safety and reforms of policing. The violence of the attack on the US Capital. The authoritarian practices and legislation passed there. The example this provides to other countries around the globe. The extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Against a background of the violence of poverty, hunger, and houselessness. The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. The ongoing discovery of the remains of thousands of native children on the grounds of the institutions of forced assimilation. Children continuing to be removed from their homes. Continued violence against women, including criminalizing abortion.

The continued colonization and broken treaties.

The violence of US military around the world. The escalating proxy war against Russia in the Ukraine.

The violence against Mother Earth. Monocropping, CAFOs, fertilizers, pipeline construction and leaks. The violence against the water.

The violence of substance abuse and deaths. And suicides.

The violence of banning books. Violent suppression of free speech. Eradicating study of the multicultural peoples that many of the students are members of. Forced assimilation continues.

The violence of the southern border, against those seeking asylum, and against those in the country who are immigrants.

This violence and oppression fueled by systems of capitalism, institutional racism, white supremacy, and dominance.

It’s both enraging and exhausting to hear people who are supposed to be leaders lament these tragedies and offer the same tired ideas that have never worked before. Why would they work now?


Mutual Aid

Trying to make incremental changes to the system will never work because the system is the problem.

As my friend Ronnie James says:

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

Mutual Aid is “where we go from here.”

This morning Ronnie and I were in Des Moines as usual, distributing donated food.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/)

So I work with a dope crew called Des Moines Mutual Aid, and on Saturday mornings we do a food giveaway program that was started by the Panthers as their free breakfast program and has carried on to this day. Anyways, brag, brag, blah, blah.

So I get to work and I need to call my boss, who is also a very good old friend, because there is network issues. He remembers and asks about the food giveaway which is cool and I tell him blah blah it went really well. And then he’s like, “hey, if no one tells you, I’m very proud of what you do for the community” and I’m like “hold on hold on. Just realize that everything I do is to further the replacing of the state and destroying western civilization and any remnants of it for future generations.” He says “I know and love that. Carry on.”

Ronnie James


Modern-Day Lynchings

Modern-Day Lynchings

Last week I visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL.  Together, they memorialize the legacy of enslaved Black people, especially the victims of racial terror lynchings in the United States.

I realized then that racial terror lynchings still exist today, though they have shape shifted. Lynchings still exist today when police use lethal force to harass, harm, and kill Black people. Lynchings have shape shifted when African Americans, like Breonna Taylor, are shot to death by police while sleeping in her bed. Lynchings still exist today when 28% of those killed by police in 2020 are Black people, despite being only 13% of the population.

It is truly difficult to fathom the violence and terrorism that was allowed, even encouraged, during the Jim Crow era. It is equally difficult to recognize that we still don’t always see the injustice of police actions today against Black people as deadly, terrorizing, and inhumane. Or, that we don’t act to change these racial injustices.

As we watch the trial of Derek Chauvin for the killing George Floyd, I am not only outraged, I am motivated to persistently lobby for the elimination of the modern-day lynchings of hundreds of Black people.

Modern-Day Lynchings by Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation, April 14, 2021

Who polices the police?

That is a perennial question. That is why there are calls for an independent investigation into the death of land defender Manuel Terán (Tortuguita). Now U.S. Congressional Representatives Cori Bush (D-Missouri) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) have joined in calls for an independent investigation.

Progressive lawmakers are calling for an independent investigation into the death of climate justice activist Manuel Terán, who also went by the name Tortuguita, who was killed by police last week as law enforcement officers were carrying out a violent raid of a protest camp in a wooded area in Atlanta, Georgia.

Activists say that the police raid of the camp was only law enforcement’s most recent attempt to clear the camp, where activists have been protesting a proposed $90 million police training facility that activists have nicknamed “Cop City.” The construction of “Cop City,” as proposed by the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department,” would involve razing nearly 100 acres of forest to build “a domestic version of a military base in the heart of a working-class Black community,” as Atlanta forest defender Kamau Franklin wrote for Truthout.

Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Cori Bush (D-Missouri) called for an independent investigation into the police killing of Tortuguita this week, echoing activists’ calls.

“Last week, police killed Tortuguita, a climate justice protester in Atlanta who was defending a forest set to be destroyed for Cop City, a police training center,” Bush wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I am calling for an independent investigation into their death. There must be accountability.”

Tlaib repeated Bush’s call in a tweet on Wednesday, saying: “I echo Rep. Bush’s call for an independent investigation. We demand justice for Tortuguita. I stand with the forest protectors righteously fighting Cop City.”

CORI BUSH CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO POLICE KILLING OF ACTIVIST TORTUGUITA. Activists have questioned law enforcement’s narrative about the killing of the Atlanta climate justice activist by SHARON ZHANG, TRUTHOUT, JANUARY 26, 2023

On the morning of Jan. 18, during what had become routine police operations to clear protesters from the site of a future training facility nicknamed “Cop City” in Atlanta’s forested outskirts, shots were fired. When the smoke cleared, an activist had been killed and a state trooper was wounded. Questions about what happened have elevated the case into a flashpoint in the national debate about policing and environmental activism.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said the shooting was not recorded on body cameras. Police said the gun used in the shooting against the trooper was purchased by Teran in September 2020. On Wednesday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that a special prosecutor will be assigned to review the case, but critics are calling for an independent investigation. 

What we know about “Cop City” and the standoff between police, protesters in Atlanta by Cara Tabachnick, CBS News, 1/26/2023

Questions about what happened have elevated the case into a flashpoint in the national debate about policing and environmental activism

Cara Tabachnick, CBS News, 1/26/2023

What is “Cop City”?

For years, Atlanta police have trained officers in temporary facilities, but in 2021 the police department and partners proposed building a facility to boost recruitment and retention efforts.

“We’re excited, because first class cities have first class investment in their training, in their public safety first responders,” Deputy Chief Darin Schierbaum told CBS News Atlanta during an overview of the project. “Training is the lifeblood of any public safety organization.”

The $90 million, 85-acre center, which includes a shooting range, mock city and burn building, among other facilities, will “reimagine law enforcement training and Police/Fire Rescue community engagement,” said the Atlanta Police Foundation, a not-for-profit that helps fund police initiatives through private-public partnerships in a statement on its website.

But the training center drew opposition almost immediately, coming on the heels of a tumultuous year of high-profile cases of police brutality and strained community relations. “We’re talking about spending millions of taxpayer dollars to fund another failed proposal that will only line the pockets of wealthy people and not actually address the issues of our day,” James Woodall, a policy associate with the Southern Center for Human Rights, told CBS News Atlanta. “City council members have even admitted that this will not impact crime,” he added.

What we know about “Cop City” and the standoff between police, protesters in Atlanta by Cara Tabachnick, CBS News, 1/26/2023

On Thursday, Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in response to protests Saturday night sparked by Tortuguita’s death, during which participants threw rocks, broke windows, and burned a police car. Kemp’s order, effective until February 9, allows up to 1,000 National Guard troops to police the streets of Atlanta.

To allies, Tortuguita’s killing was the climax of an escalation of police and legal tactics meant to stifle the wide-ranging movement to stop construction of the training center, which includes parks advocates, prison abolitionists, and area neighborhood associations. Over the course of December and January, 19 opponents of the police training center have been charged with felonies under Georgia’s rarely used 2017 domestic terrorism law. 

Documents show how 19 ‘Cop City’ activists got charged with terrorism by Alleen Brow, Grist, 1/27/2023

There are also heightened tensions now in Memphis related to the police killing of Tyre Nichols.

Video of the encounter will be released after 6 p.m. local time Friday, officials said. Memphis police chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis said Thursday that she expected citizens to be outraged by what she called the “heinous, reckless and inhumane” conduct captured in the video. She said she expected people to protest and called on them to remain peaceful.

Memphis police set to release video showing fatal beating of Tyre Nichols Story by Doha Madani and David K. Li and Deon J. Hampton, NBC News