In South Dekalb County, Georgia, the South River forest forms a canopy so lush and life-giving that it is referred to as one of the “four lungs of Atlanta.” This sprawl of green space was known as “Welaunee” by the native Muscogee people, who were forcibly displaced in the 1830’s. Swaths of Welaunee Forest were settled and cleared to make way for a cotton plantation. This history encapsulates the twinned imperatives of the American colonial project: the displacement and genocide of indigenous populations and the stolen labor of enslaved Africans. Today, the Welaunee forest is once again imperiled.
Atlanta, GA — A multi-agency task force raided three homes in Atlanta early Thursday morning as part of an ongoing investigation surrounding resistance to ‘Cop City.’ At around 6:00 a.m., law enforcement agents with the Atlanta Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and FBI carried out search warrants at three separate homes across the city seeking evidence related to a July 2023 arson targeting police motorcycles at an Atlanta police precinct. One 30-year-old Atlanta local, John Mazurek, was arrested and charged with first-degree arson in connection with the 2023 sabotage.
Between fiscal years 2018 and 2022, DFCS reported “inadequate housing” as the sole reason for removing a child in more than 700 cases, according to an analysis by WABE and ProPublica. The analysis, using data from the federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, which tracks child removal cases in each state, also shows that in thousands of additional cases — about 20% of Georgia’s nearly 31,000 child removals during the five-year period — DFCS reported housing as one of multiple reasons. Housing was the third most reported reason after substance use and neglect.
Starting in April 2021, people in Atlanta, Georgia set out to defend Weelaunee Forest, where politicians and profiteers are attempting to build a police training compound known as Cop City. Over the past two and a half years, this movement has given rise to one of the fiercest struggles in North America. Opponents of Cop City have repeatedly destroyed equipment and forced contractors to withdraw from the construction project, while the authorities have killed one forest defender and pressed outlandish racketeering charges against 61 more, including the members of a legal support collective.
On November 6, I sat in a courtroom in downtown Atlanta as 57 people churned through arraignments on charges tied to a sweeping racketeering case. The case in question is as light on the evidence as it is clear in its aim: to suppress the movement to stop Cop City from being built in an Atlanta-area forest. The arraignment process was the first of what will likely be many surreal days in court as the state attempts a prosecution unprecedented in both size and scope. Being somewhat confused by the inner workings of our Byzantine court system on even the best days, I didn’t know what to expect from a mass arraignment of this many individuals.
When does lawful protest become criminal activity? That question is at issue in Atlanta, where 57 people have been indicted and arraigned on racketeering charges for actions related to their protest against a planned police and firefighter training center that critics call “Cop City.” Racketeering charges typically are reserved for people accused of conspiring toward a criminal goal, such as members of organized crime networks or financiers engaged in insider trading. Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr is attempting to build an argument that seeking to stop construction of the police training facility – through actions that include organizing protests, occupying the construction site and vandalizing police cars and construction equipment – constitutes a “corrupt agreement” or shared criminal goal.
Laney Graduate School students have voted to unionize after years of advocacy, making Emory University the first private university to have a graduate-worker union in Georgia and the second in the South. EmoryUnite! is now officially recognized as a union under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), meaning Emory administration is required to enter negotiations with graduate students. EmoryUnite! announced the results in a Nov. 28 Instagram post. In total, 909 students (92.6%) voted in favor of unionization while 73 students (7.4%) voted against unionization during the election on Oct. 17 and 18, according to the post. Of the approximately 1,700 Laney Ph.D. students eligible to vote in the election, 982 (57.8%) participated.
The spoken word poem “There are Flowers Blooming in Antarctica,” shared on TikTok by user Madii.sky.blu, speaks of the modern-day man-made horrors that confront us. It highlights the contradictions of witnessing flowers bloom in Antarctica—a reminder of climate change and impending collapse—amidst governmental apathy along with grim reality of observing genocide in Palestine. The resonating words “there are flowers blooming in Antarctica” echo Palestine’s struggle for liberation, a battle not confined geographically, reverberates globally, its ripples reaching the verdant forests of Atlanta, Georgia.
Stone Mountain, GA — A Georgia prosecutor announced Friday, Oct. 6, that six Georgia State Patrol SWAT troopers – Brylend Myers, Jerry Parrish, Jonathan Salcedo, Mark Lamb, Ronaldo Kegel, and Royce Zah – will not face criminal charges in the January 18, 2023 shooting death of Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Esteban Paez Terán, a nonbinary indigenous Venezuelan climate protester. Terán’s family and fellow activists believe they were murdered that day in the South River Forest near Atlanta, and much of the publicly available evidence from the incident casts doubt on the official narrative. Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney George R. Christian was tasked with the investigation on March 8 by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, ostensibly for the purpose of conducting an independent investigation.
On September 29, in a disclosure ignored by the entire Western media, the US government-run Radio Free Europe’s Russian-language portal Slobodna Evropa revealed that three foreign operatives had been summoned for questioning by the Georgian Security Service, for allegedly assisting opposition elements prepare a Maidan-style regime change scenario in Tbilisi. The operatives were staffers of the Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS) and had been “temporarily staying in Georgia.” CANVAS is a US government-funded organization with close CIA ties which has trained regime change activists from Eastern Europe to Venezuela.
It was late summer 2017 at the Overtyme Bar and Grill, a hotspot off a busy highway in Macon, Georgia, and Kumho Tire plant worker Mario Smith had important questions for local United Steelworkers (USW) president Alex Perkins: he wanted to know how he could bring a union to the one-year-old factory. Now six years later—after two elections, many National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) cases, a virulent union-busting campaign, and the triumphant solidarity of the factory workers—that union has gained its first-ever collective bargaining agreement with Kumho Tire management, the first tire workers to unionize in the United States in 40 years.
The Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition in Atlanta submitted more than 116,000 signatures on Monday to put a referendum about the embattled police training complex on the ballot for local voters, but city officials quickly refused to validate the signatures and move the petition along due to an ongoing legal fight over the signature-gathering process. Stop Cop City activists accused Atlanta officials of once again subverting democracy after moving forward with the construction of the 85-acre, $90 million police training complex, despite months of fierce protest and loud community opposition to a facility that activists say would further militarize Atlanta cops.
Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law, modeled on the federal statute designed to attack mob bosses, has been in the news a lot, ever since Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis used Georgia’s law to charge former President Donald Trump and his associates with attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. And with the news has come the inevitable hand-wringing about whether the RICO charges against Trump were a good idea. CNN (8/26/23) published an op-ed questioning whether the indictments were too broad, saying, “Casting a wide net can also raise serious First Amendment issues.”
For the past two years, calls to “stop Cop City” and “defend the Atlanta forest” have shaken the political and corporate establishment of Georgia’s state capital. Although Atlanta City Council has approved a lease and funding for a massive Public Safety Training Center in the city’s Weelaunee Forest, the sustained, popular #StopCopCity movement has effectively halted its construction. In response, local and state government have used a variety of tactics to move things forward — including police raids (which led to the killing of protester Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán), domestic terrorism charges against activists and a highly-controversial “signature verification process” that could undermine a proposed referendum.
Thursday morning a group of Cop City activists invoked a “people’s stop work order” and chained themselves to equipment at the construction site for the proposed Atlanta Safety Public Training Center, more commonly known as Cop City. “This is a war happening against protesters,” Ayeola Omolara Kaplan, one of the five activists arrested, said via written statement. “If we don’t stand up for our right to protest now, standing up in the future will be vain. Cop City is in the process of being built, and this can only continue if we allow it.” Kaplan, a self-described Atlanta based revolutionary artist, was joined by Jeff Jones...