Recently, the news cycle has been filled with the struggle against Cop City, the proposed urban warfare training facility to be located on acres of forest lands, which had been previously set aside as a nature preserve and for public recreation. This entire area has now been renamed Weelaunee Forest, as it was called by its original Muskogee Creek inhabitants.
Beginning March 4, Atlanta and other Georgia residents, along with hundreds coming from across the U.S. and other countries, have engaged in a multiplicity of educational, cultural and protest activities to fight back against the corporate-backed Atlanta Police Foundation’s (APF) plan to establish the training center there.
On May 5, a two-day, family friendly, all-day concert on public land took place, a considerable distance from the site of the Atlanta Prison Farm, where destruction of trees and bulldozing of a small section has illegally proceeded.
In the late afternoon, a fairly large group managed to enter the area where the “destruction” equipment was stored and set some of it on fire. Any immediate police response was held back by a volley of fireworks and rocks. The group then disappeared into the woods.
The police retaliated an hour later by encircling the unaware concert goers with a smoky barrier of pepper spray, threatening people with drawn guns and verbal commands, demanding identification to be able to leave the area and tackling a number of people to the ground and arresting them. Twenty-two people were taken to the DeKalb County jail charged with “domestic terrorism.”
A March 6 press conference held in front of City Hall with local clergy denounced the actions of the police and the outrageous charges that the city has implemented in an attempt to repress the movement. The determined group then went to the City Council meeting and lambasted its members for their role in these anti-democratic actions.
On March 8, several Muskogee women entered a meeting of the Atlanta Regional Council where Mayor Andre Dickens was present. He and his security team immediately bolted out of the room and did not hear the statement of the descendants of the land’s original people.
That same day at night outside the DeKalb jail, a noise demonstration in support of those arrested and held without bail was held, complete with messages of “Tortuguita Lives” and “Stop Cop City” flashed on the seven-story building. From the small jail windows, cheers and forms of solidarity from those incarcerated could be seen.
March 9 was a rainy, cold day, but that did not stop hundreds from turning out at the King Center for a nighttime rally and march to the headquarters of the APF on Atlanta’s famed downtown Peachtree Street.
Dozens and dozens of riot-equipped cops were on the corners, in cars and vans on side streets and amassed in front of the office tower, still with boarded up windows from the protest following the murder of forest defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran shot 14 times by Georgia State Police on Jan. 18.
No backing down
The chant “Cop City will never be built” echoed off the canyon of buildings. Community Movement Builders founder, Kamau Franklin declared the event a successful show of solidarity of the broad range of Cop City opponents. These opponents included Black neighborhood residents, clergy, Indigenous members, environmental and climate change activists, housing and voting rights organizations, political groups, college students from Morehouse, Spelman and other universities and families whose loved ones had been killed by police.
On the early morning of March 11, the police raided the grounds of a nonprofit in the Lakewood neighborhood of Southeast Atlanta, the Lakewood Environmental Arts Foundation (LEAF). The food distribution center had offered camping space on their property for those concerned about setting up their tents in the Weelaunee Forest.
Again dozens of police threatened people with arrest, demanded ID, refused to show a warrant and trashed people’s things. In the end, one person was arrested for an unpaid parking ticket!!
Later on Saturday, a Youth Festival with music, food and games was held at Brownwood Park, with many families and young people in attendance.
A press conference was held to inform people of what really happened that morning and to repeat that this movement, which represents so many connected struggles of oppressed and working-class peoples, not just in Atlanta but globally, will not be defeated.
The closing event of the Week of Action took place March 12, when Tortuguito’s ashes were scattered in the Weelaunee Forest by their mother, Belkis Teran. Accompanied by a crowd of other forest defenders and supporters, she said Tortuguita’s spirit would always live in these woods. Ms. Teran has spoken or been present literally every day of the Week of Action.
Go to stopcopcity.org for more information.
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