Above Photo: Demonstrators protest the death of forest defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Teran on January 21, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. Elijah Nouvelage For The Washington Post Via Getty Images.
His “lack of intervention in protecting Atlanta protestors and residents led directly to the fatal raid,” they said.
Over 1,300 climate, justice and community groups are calling for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to resign over the police killing of anti-“Cop City” activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán on January 18, issuing a strong rebuke to Dickens for his refusal to even condemn the killing.
In their letter, the groups said that Dickens has stood firmly on the side of law enforcement as Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has sent in the National Guard to crack down on protests in a continued escalation of the violence and threats of violence against protesters.
“Mayor Dickens has stood by as police violence and rhetoric towards protestors has steadily ratcheted up, including the use of chemical agents and militarized raids on small groups of protestors engaged in civil disobedience,” the letter reads. “Less than a month ago, Atlanta City Council members and activists rang the alarm about the dangers of escalated police violence after an aggressive raid on peaceful protestors on December 13th. Rather than use this as an opportunity to listen or reverse course, Dickens ignored the concerns of council members and his own constituents.”
“Mayor Dickens’ lack of intervention in protecting Atlanta protestors and residents led directly to the fatal raid,” the groups continued.
The letter was signed by groups like climate justice coalition People Vs. Fossil Fuels as well as local, Indigenous and abolitionist groups.
The groups wrote that Dickens has not only parroted Kemp’s and law enforcement’s talking points and narratives on the killing, which activists have questioned, but has also refused to display basic respect to the protesters. Though it has been nearly two weeks since Tortuguita’s killing, Dickens has not offered condolences to their family, the letter points out — but just hours after the killing, he tweeted in support of the police officer who was allegedly injured during the raid of the activists’ camp.
Dickens, a Democrat, has continually supported and championed “Cop City,” a proposal to raze nearly 100 acres of forest in Southeast Atlanta to build an intensely militarized police training facility, despite the vast amount of community opposition and the threat that the project is already posing to the public.
He was one of 10 city councilors who voted in favor of leasing land to build “Cop City” before he became mayor and has not come out against the domestic terrorism charges lobbed against protesters over what appears to be nothing more than alleged trespassing charges — charges that experts say are baseless. Further, Dickens has disparaged people protesting in Atlanta after Tortuguita’s killing and said that protests like these and those of the Movement for Black Lives in 2020 are evidence that policing must increase.
“Mayor Dickens can somehow find $90 million dollars for cop city, one third of which will come from tax payer money. Still, he can’t find money to keep our already overwhelmed hospitals open or to finance much-needed affordable housing,” the groups wrote. “The evidence is clear: we no longer have confidence in Dicken’s ability to govern the City of Atlanta.”
The letter also calls for Dickens to terminate the forest lease, and for an independent investigation into Tortuguita’s killing, separate from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s probe, which has ties to the Atlanta Police Department — the same department involved in the killing.
“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,” ikiyA collective, a member of People Vs. Fossil Fuels’s steering committee, said in a statement. “It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Paez Terán.”