Atlanta, Georgia - 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. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond just days ago publicly praised the project’s Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSAC) as ensuring ongoing citizen input into the controversial plan, with Thurmond claiming it was “speaking truth to power.” Neither said that one citizen had already quit and they did not see the other member’s rebuke coming in the form of an appeal. 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.
The cold-blooded assassination of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, Spanish for “Little Turtle,” is a reminder that fascism in the United States cannot be reduced to the political intentions of avowed white nationalists. African/Black and Indigenous people residing in the settler-colonial project known as the United States continue to be subjected to a cycle of state-sanctioned violence and political repression with bipartisan consensus. People of the global majority and their allies must not allow these latest episodes of injustice to go unanswered. The Atlanta City-Wide Alliance of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP-Atlanta) has been working with a coalition of Indigenous people, African/Black people, other people of color, and Euro-Americans to prevent the construction of “Cop City,” as BAP-Atlanta expressed in a recent statement. The statement highlighted the obvious nexus between the proposed $90 million police-training facility site, where Tortuguita was killed on January 18, and the white supremacy-fueled genocide, militarism, and oppression the U.S. empire exercises both outside and within.
Atlanta, Georgia - Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced Tuesday that the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County have reached an agreement regarding permitting issues that had previously slowed their plans to build an elaborate 85-acre police training facility in the middle of a forest in unincorporated DeKalb County, southeast of Atlanta. The training center, nicknamed “Cop City,” has sparked massive opposition; violent police repression of the movement against the project recently led to SWAT officers shooting and killing a protester. Dickens’ announcement varied little from the Atlanta Police Foundation and the City of Atlanta’s previously stated plans. However, apparently responding to criticism from environmental groups and community members, the mayor attempted to reframe the project as environmentally beneficial to the South River watershed and surrounding forest.
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.
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.
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.
Atlanta, Georgia - The city of Atlanta, Georgia is often presented as a “Mecca” for Black people. Every mayor of that city who has held office since 1974 has been Black, and celebrities have made it their home. Major Historically Black Colleges and Universities are located there. Atlanta is thought of as a place where Black people thrive. Except it is like every other major American city, where Black people are more likely to be low wage workers or among the unhoused. The Black people in leadership positions are allowed to occupy them precisely because they have taken a pledge not to upset the established political order. These caveats must be kept in mind when discussing the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, known popularly as Cop City. The purported Black Mecca municipality is spending $30 million to construct an 85-acre militarized police training camp in the Weelaunee Forest.
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.” Unicorn Riot wrote: A protester was shot and killed by police Wednesday morning, January 18, in the midst of a multi-jurisdictional raid on the Atlanta Forest, also known as the Weelaunee Forest, in DeKalb County, southeast of Atlanta. The identity of the protester is currently unknown. A Georgia State Trooper was reportedly also shot during the raid and is currently undergoing surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital, according to police. At least three other protesters were reportedly arrested during the raid and were charged with “aggravated assault on a public safety officer” and “domestic terrorism.” A forest defender, who was present during the raid and spoke with Unicorn Riot under conditions of anonymity, reported hearing 10-12 gunshots all at once followed by a loud boom.
Atlanta, Georgia - An activist was shot and killed by police on Wednesday during a violent raid of the protest camp and community gathering space that has blocked construction of an enormous police training facility known as “Cop City” on roughly 100 acres of public forest in southeast Atlanta. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation initially said a suspect was shot and killed after allegedly firing a gun and injuring a Georgia state trooper during the raid, but fellow protesters and community activists doubt the official narrative and are calling on journalists and legal observers to investigate. Tensions between police and the tree-sitting protesters (known as “forest defenders”) have been rising for months, and activists said they had previously demanded police stop bringing guns and other weapons into the forest to prevent needless injury and death.
Atlanta, Georgia - On January 18, the police shot and killed a protester in Weelaunee Forest. Dozens of heavily armed DeKalb Police, Atlanta Police and Georgia State police shut down Weelaunee People’s Park and nearby streets before entering the tree line with guns drawn and heavy machinery poised to continue forest destruction. Police have repeatedly raided this public park, flattened community gardens and art installations, attacked protestors with chemical weapons and rubber bullets, and threatened lethal force. During past raids, police have consistently escalated violent tactics on peaceful people who were sitting in trees or walking through the public park. Since June 6, 2022, activists and community members fighting to Defend the Atlanta Forest and Stop Cop City have been demanding that officers stop bringing weapons into the forest after APD pointed their weapons at peaceful protestors.
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, SWAT teams and other armed police officers from eight different federal, state, county, and city police agencies conducted a raid on those camping out in the Atlanta forest in hopes of preventing the construction of a 85-acre police training facility that opponents have dubbed “Cop City.” During the raid, police shot tear gas and plastic bullets and forced people out of the forest at gunpoint. Police in Bobcats and other heavy equipment destroyed treehouses, a communal kitchen, and other infrastructure built by those dedicated to the defense of the forest. By the end of the two-day operation, a total of 12 people were arrested, according to police. At least six of those have been charged with a host of felonies, including state-level domestic terrorism charges, according to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund.
Atlanta, Georgia - As news broke Wednesday that the GBI had charged five people protesting against Atlanta’s new public safety training center with domestic terrorism — hefty charges carrying the potential for lengthy prison sentences — activists reacted with a mix of disgust, defiance and a vow to carry on. “I don’t think people are defeated,” Kamau Franklin, founder of the Black liberation group Community Movement Builders, said at an impromptu press conference not far from the proposed development site in southwestern DeKalb County. “I think there are forest defenders who will continue to defend the forest. That means civil disobedience, that means rallies, demonstrations. That means all the tactics that we can use.” Authorities were equally unwavering.
Atlanta, Georgia - “Stop Cop City!” shouted Kamau Franklin, standing in front of dozens of people who recently packed into the Little Five Points Community Center. “Stop Cop City!” the crowd chanted back. The roughly 50 people who packed into the community center on Oct. 25 want to stop construction of Atlanta’s controversial plan to build a $90 million public safety training center for its police and fire departments. They are part of a larger, diverse coalition that include environmentalists, activists against police brutality, residents living near the planned training center and anti-racism groups. “We are building movement, we are a continuing movement,” said Franklin, who is founder of Atlanta’s Community Movement Builders, a Black-led collective that organizes against issues such as ending police violence and gentrification.
Neal, a Jamaican citizen who owned and operated a yacht servicing company for 25 years in South Florida, spent 17 months in a prison that’s been converted into a detention center for immigrants in Georgia. Speaking to us of his experience at the Folkston ICE Processing Center, Neal described a prison that lacks basic safety and care for the people detained there and overall conditions that reveal a jarring lack of regard for human life. “That place is not for safety or for human beings—it is just for money,” said Neal, who wishes to be identified by his first name only. “I thought this government was going to close down all of those private ICE prisons. Politicians say anything when they want votes.” On June 30, a government investigation of Folkston identified numerous violations that “compromised the health, safety, and rights” of detained immigrants.
The hearing on July 26 was part of an investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations into USP Atlanta, which is a facility for pretrial detainees. So far, the investigation has focused on civil rights violations, prison staff misconduct, the flow of contraband and narcotics, and the high rate of suicides. According to Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, who is the chair of the subcommitee, “The investigation has revealed that gross misconduct persisted at this facility for at least nine years, and that much of the damning information revealing misconduct, abuse, and corruption was known to BOP and accessible to BOP leadership during that period.” The subcommittee invited outgoing BOP Director Michael Carvajal to testify, but the Justice Department initially declined to make Carvajal available.