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.
Stop Cop City
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.
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.
Opponents of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center scored another victory today when a federal judge denied the city of Atlanta’s appeal to try to halt the “Stop Cop City” referendum petition drive. The ruling comes as organizers with the Vote to Stop Cop City coalition say they have collected nearly 80,000 signatures, more than the 70,000 goal announced at the start of the campaign in June. U.S. District Court Judge Mark H. Cohen denied the city’s appeal of his ruling last month to allow those living outside the city to collect signatures as part of the referendum petition campaign. His ruling on the preliminary injunction also extended the amount of time to collect signatures.
Despite the arrests of protesters and their support network, or perhaps because of it, the Stop Cop City movement is everywhere. Driving through Atlanta, I see Stop Cop City wheatpaste posters pasted on abandoned buildings and at highway intersections. “Defend the Atlanta forest” is scrawled as bathroom graffiti and found on bumper stickers and yard signs. It’s hard for residents of Atlanta to be ignorant of the movement. Defend the Atlanta Forest, once a small contingent of hardcore activists occupying the Weelaunee Forest in the dead of winter, has proliferated into a diverse movement.
Atlanta, GA — The ‘Week of Action’ against ‘Cop City’ continued Friday with a protest outside the offices of Cadence Bank in Midtown Atlanta, which is providing a construction loan to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the building of ‘Cop City.’ Friday evening, a panel hosted by ‘Hip Hop Caucus’ discussed the past and present of overpolicing — from Atlanta’s militarized Red Dog Unit to ‘Cop City.’ During the rally at the bank, protesters chanted, held banners and briefly attempted to enter the locked building entrance to speak with Cadence Bank representatives.
The ‘Stop Cop City’ movement’s sixth week of action continued on Wednesday, with two events striking a more tense tone than the relatively calmer days earlier in the week. At around 10:30 a.m., a few dozen protesters held an unannounced noise demonstration outside Cadence Bank, which is providing the Atlanta Police Foundation with a construction loan for building ‘Cop City.’ They reportedly chanted at the bank for about 20 minutes, with some bacon apparently being tossed toward the mass of police guarding the bank, before leaving.
Atlanta, GA — This week (June 24 – July 1) activists, organizers, and community members opposed to ‘Cop City’ are converging in Atlanta for a “Week of Action” against the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. From June 24 through July 1, people will gather in and around Atlanta to mobilize against the Atlanta Police Foundation’s proposed urban warfare training center. In the months since the last national convergence against the project, clear cutting in Weelaunee, where the training facility may be built, has escalated, the city of Atlanta has approved millions in additional funds for the project, and repression against organizers has continued.
The organizing against Cop City continues. Over 70% of Atlanta residents do not want it. For years, the city residents have been outspoken in opposition, filling city halls, organizing tree sits, contacting every level of government. In response the Georgia State Police murdered a land defender, Tortuguita in January, and have since charged over 40 people with domestic terrorism. Georgia police have responded with overwhelming and disproportionate violence. We know that this state repression will only grow with a huge influx of police into the majority Black city, and that cops from all over will be trained at this $90 million dollar facility. We need to stop Cop City.