The conflict between forest defenders and agents of state violence in Atlanta is a microcosm of the interconnected battles we face against rising American fascism.
Cop City is a proposed 90-million dollar police training facility to be built in the Weelaunee forest in Atlanta. Since 2021, it has been a site of contestation between activist defenders of the forest and the corporate and political interests supporting the expansion and militarization of the police state.
This facility, if built, will be a site for staging counterinsurgency training in mock scenarios against civilian targets, among others, and will bring agencies from around the country together to coordinate suppression of the populace. It will also result in the destruction of 300 acres of forest land — the ancestral home of the Muscogee Creek peoples — and a vital piece of Atlanta’s ecosystem.
The project is enormously unpopular in Atlanta, and has been opposed by a wide cohort of local civic groups from churches to concerned citizens and environmental activists. (Unsurprisingly this land is near historically Black neighborhoods in the city, and is staunchly opposed by them as well.) Over the past two years, movement against the proposed construction of Cop City has managed to slow and stall the project through a variety of tactics, including legal challenges, protests, and occupying the forest itself.
The past few months have seen an upswing in police aggression in moving against the activists defending the forest, culminating on January 18th with the assassination of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, AKA Tortuguita1, during a raid on the activist camp. The police initially claimed to have fired in self defense, but details have since come to light that the police shot their own officer2 and executed Tortuguita while they were seated with their hands above their head3).
In an unprecedented move, the state of Georgia has also begun charging nonviolent protesters as domestic terrorists4 in an attempt to intimidate further participation in the movement. These charges have no way of holding up in court, and provide further evidence of the state’s desperation to paint opposition to Cop City as the work of “outside agitators” rather than a rising tide of locally grounded and passionate dissent.
With the tragic death of Tortuguita as a rallying cry, all eyes should be on Atlanta. The struggle in the Weelaunee forest is an existential one, both for the natural world and for ourselves as a part of it. As state violence escalates against the community and activists seek to prevent further harm to the forest, let’s come out against Cop City and in favor of the world we want to live in.
To get involved and stay informed, follow Defend the Atlanta Forest. (Twitter)
- The Death of a Forest Defender at “Stop Cop City” – Movement Memos [↩]
- Atlanta PD Releases Bodycam Footage from Deadly Jan. 18 Forest Raid – Unicorn Riot [↩]
- Family: activist’s hands were raised when shot by police at training center site – Atlanta Journal-Constitution (non-paywalled [↩]
- Atlanta Cop City Protesters Charged With Domestic Terror for Having Mud on Their Shoes — The Intercept [↩]