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Here’s How We Escape Climate Apocalypse

#STOPCOPCITY March 2023 Week of Action

The Fight Against Cop City

By Amna A. Akbar - Dissent, Spring 2023

On Saturday, March 4, I arrived at Intrenchment Creek Park in DeKalb County, Georgia, for the first day of a week of action against a $90 million construction project undertaken by the Atlanta Police Foundation—a private entity, backed by local CEOs and political leaders, that advances police interests. The foundation wants to raze eighty-five acres of public forest to build the largest police training facility in the United States, complete with a firing range, a burn building, and a “kill house” designed to mimic urban combat scenarios. It also argues that the facility will boost morale among officers. The size and scale of the project, and the destruction and deforestation it will require, have led a growing number of activists, organizers, and community members to object to what they call “Cop City.” The campaign against Cop City is simultaneously a campaign to defend the Weelaunee Forest, the name used for the area by the Muscogee Creek people forcibly displaced by settlers from the land in the early 1800s before it became the site of the notorious Atlanta Prison Farm. These elements of the campaign—the histories on which it draws, what it’s fighting against and for, who it is bringing together, and how—have given it tremendous staying power despite extraordinary odds.

Locals often describe Atlanta as “a city in a forest,” with trees and a tree canopy covering almost half of the land. The ecosystem depends on this foliage, and activists say that the deforestation required to build the facility will harm air quality, hasten climate change, and contribute to flooding in predominantly poor and working-class Black and brown communities. The proposed development will further distance residents from accessible green space while bringing toxic waste closer. But the project will do more than fracture the largest green space in Atlanta. The activists fighting against Cop City argue that police violence itself constitutes an environmental hazard, and that toxic chemicals associated with explosives that could be used on the site will destroy the air, water, and land on which myriad forms of life depend.

The week of action I attended was organized in remembrance of Tortuguita, or Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, the twenty-six-year-old nonbinary forest defender killed by Georgia State Patrol on January 18. Activists I met affectionately abbreviated their name to “Tort.” While police originally claimed self-defense, body-camera footage and two different autopsies show police shot Terán thirteen or fourteen times and suggest they were sitting cross-legged with both hands up when the police fired. Terán’s mother has since come to Atlanta from Panama to file suit against the city for records of her child’s murder, and to demand justice with a growing coalition at her side.

Terán is the first environmental activist killed by police in recent U.S. history. Their death is part of an intensifying campaign of repression waged against protesters fighting environmentally destructive developments across the country, most famously the Standing Rock encampment against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The arrests, raids, and prosecutions evoke the Green Scare of the early 2000s, when the federal government infiltrated, surveilled, and prosecuted environmental and animal activists across the country. The recent protests, however, come at a time of greater popular recognition of the climate crisis—and the seeming futility of turning to elected officials to take climate action against the same corporations that fuel their campaigns and structure the economy.

In Atlanta, there have been three waves of arrests and at least as many forest raids since December. Sixty-eight people are facing variations on common charges brought against protesters—disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and assault, and obstruction of governmental administration. But forty-two among them face domestic terrorism charges, which carry a mandatory minimum of five years of incarceration and a maximum of thirty-five. The thin affidavits suggest the basis of the charges are affiliation with Defend the Atlanta Forest, “a group classified by the United States Department of Homeland Security as Domestic Violent Extremists.” (A DHS official told the Washington Post it never made such a classification.) Those who have been released on bond are prohibited from having contact with their codefendants or with Defend the Atlanta Forest. Multiple activists have insisted, however, that Defend the Atlanta Forest is not an organization at all: instead, it is a demand, a social media account, and a shorthand reference for a loosely affiliated group of autonomous individuals, protecting the land against encroachment and seemingly motivated by anarchist principles. This insistence is about their political commitments as much as it is a rejection of the state’s theory of criminalization.

The Abolitionist Struggle to Stop Cop City: History, Geography, Intersections

By Micah Herskind, Kwame Olufemi, Sarah Haley, and Stuart Schrader - Haymarket Books, March 14, 2023

Defending Abundance Everywhere: A Call to Every Community from the Weelaunee Forest

By Abundia, Jesse, Jordan, & Mara - Weelaunee Web Collective, March 2, 2023

In the following text, participants in the movement to defend Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta, Georgia describe some of the values that animate this struggle. For background on the movement, start here.

This is a collection of short essays reflecting on the abundance that exists in our communities and in the more-than-human world, and how we not only can practice gratitude for this abundance but embody it as a way of approaching the world.

We dedicate this work to our friend, Tortuguita, who was part of these conversations. Georgia State Troopers killed Tortuguita on January 18, 2023 at the forest they loved so dearly. This piece is for them and for all past, present, and future Warriors defending and loving the Sacred Web of Abundance everywhere.

With profound love and admiration,
The Weelaunee Web Collective: Abundia, Jesse, Jordan, & Mara

Introduction

The threads of our lives have been slowly woven together through meals cooked communally, organizing meetings, bonfires and late conversations, foraging, harvesting, taking care of each other, and, lately, mourning a fallen comrade and friend. We all came together to protect Weelaunee Forest: the trees, waters, people, and all beings of this land. We came together to Stop Cop City and the violent military occupation of police in our communities, especially the Black and Brown ones, in Atlanta, Georgia. We came together amid COVID, when we felt the loss of closeness with our people, knowing we had to find creative ways of fostering community. We have come together to build the world we want to live in, even as we recognize we are all swimming in the extractive and oppressive systems of colonization, white supremacy, and capitalism, programmed for convenience and quick rewards. We keep coming back together, gathering with each other, to live in the joy and rest and wellness of community care.

The topic of this piece is the Sacred Web of Abundance (SWoA). The larger Sacred Web of Abundance is the sum of the vast, intricate system that sustains all life on this planet. Your Sacred Web of Abundance is the place that you live, the ways in which it sustains you, and the ways in which you sustain it. We are here to be part of this web and invite in others who are on the same land. What we have found is that the Sacred Web of Abundance, with her billions of years of wisdom, is there for us, waiting for our gratitude, delight, offerings, rituals, and ceremonies—waiting to build a relationship with us.

These unique ways of considering abundance emanate from a particular place, the South River Forest, known as the Weelaunee Forest on old maps of Georgia. These ideas come from conversations among a group of people as they adapt to living in that place.

Often overlooked, we feel that the Sacred Web of Abundance is a powerful idea for radical organizing. It is here for us as a force for liberation—as it has existed since time immemorial—and to help us fix the mess we are in by reclaiming our community power and centering it around the land that the community inhabits. In these times, we are all called to create new forms of organizing and direct action; new language, perspectives, and modes of being; and infrastructure for healing, care, and safety that centers the SWoA as key praxis for autonomous communities to build on.

Abundance points to the interconnected reliance on both self and community to provide for all; therefore, re-creating and reconnecting to our Sacred Web of Abundance are both essential collective actions for a new political project aimed at freedom and autonomy. Abundance is here, already, alive around us, if we open ourselves to its presence. We do not take this reliance on abundance for granted, as we did with the gift of human contact and proximity pre-COVID. Instead, we want to nourish and be nourished in its care, find inspiration from it to build new mutual aid infrastructure, gather strength to defend it from extractivism and capitalism everywhere, and create new cultures and ways of being and relating to each other and all the members of the SWoA.

Rooftop Solar Justice

By Howard Crystal, Roger Lin, and Jean Su - Center for Biolgical Diversity, March 2023

A war over the nation’s energy future is raging across the United States. On one side are everyday people who can benefit from clean, renewable energy through distributed-solar projects like rooftop and community solar. On the other side are for-profit electric utilities threatened by distributed solar’s impact on their lucrative, guaranteed profits. These companies are using their influence with regulators and legislators in a coordinated effort to undermine the expansion of distributed solar. They recently succeeded in California. This report addresses the environmental and economic justice of net energy metering, or NEM, and the utility industry’s false and self-serving claims against distributed-solar growth.

To combat the climate emergency and pervasive energy inequity, we need to maximize distributed solar development. NEM already exists in many states and is a key policy driver to expand distributed solar. Customers pay only for the net electricity they use each month, considering both the power going to the grid when rooftop-solar systems generate excess electricity and the power coming in from the grid (particularly at night). Net metering substantially reduces electricity bills, allowing people to recoup their distributed-solar investments.

For-profit utilities are fighting NEM on multiple fronts and in many states. In California, for example, they recently convinced regulators to gut net metering for new customers. In Florida a utility-backed bill to gut net metering passed the legislature. Utility companies fight NEM because it undermines their business model, which assumes that centralized utilities are the only legitimate makers and sellers of electricity.

As this report shows, anti-net-metering talking points are based on an outdated version of the grid, where for-profit utilities control everything. Utilities want to gut net metering to maintain control and use the proceeds to pay for rising utility costs, including the growing costs of addressing climate-fueled catastrophes and stranded assets in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Read the entire statement (PDF).

An Obituary for Tortuguita

By Tallahassee IWW - European Trade Union Institute, February 24, 2023

Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran
They/It
4/23/96 – 1/18/23

Manny was a close friend, comrade, and above all, a constant fighter for working people. I knew them in Tallahassee through the IWW, Food Not Bombs, and Live Oak Radical Ecology and I will never cease to be amazed by their tireless activism, their extreme empathy, and their ability to make everyone feel welcome in radical spaces. They died as they lived, fighting for a better world and defending the forest from destruction in the name of a fascist militarized police force. I hope their name will not be forgotten, and that their killer is brought to justice, but more than anything I hope the cause that they fought for is victorious. Now we mourn this great loss to the Tallahassee and Atlanta communities, but tomorrow we will fight back twice as hard against Capitalism and the State so that Tortuguita did not die in vain. We love you and miss you Manny. Solidarity Forever!

Legal Support for Protesters/Activists

Support for Manny’s Family/Funeral Costs/Immigration

Public Petition to Support the Defend the Atlanta Forest Movement

This obituary was originally printed in Atlanta IWW’s South Paw newsletter by the Tallahassee IWW and has been reprinted here at their request.

Forest Defenders Vow Resistance After Court Green-Lights Phase I of “Cop City”

By Candice Bernd - Truthout, February 22, 2023

A judge denied a restraining order against initial construction of the $90 million militarized police training complex.

The Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, issued an order last week denying three plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order to halt clearing and construction work at the forested site of a planned police training facility that activists in Atlanta have dubbed “Cop City.” The ruling paves the way for construction activity even as the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals considers the merits of the plaintiffs’ legal appeal of the project’s land disturbance permit.

The 85-acre, $90 million police militarization and training complex is being spearheaded by the Atlanta Police Foundation. If built, the compound would be one of the largest police training facilities in the country. The site would contain several shooting ranges, a helicopter landing base, an area for explosives training, police-horse stables and an entire mock city for officers to engage in role-playing activities.

In September 2021, the Atlanta City Council approved the project despite nearly 17 hours of comments from more than 1,100 constituents across the city, 70 percent of whom expressed firm opposition. Black working-class communities who actually live in the proposed area of unincorporated DeKalb County, and therefore aren’t represented in Atlanta’s City Council, also vocally oppose the project.

Judge Thomas Cox sided with the Atlanta Police Foundation’s argument that, “Property owned by a governmental entity for governmental purposes is exempt from local zoning ordinances.” Judge Cox, however, ordered the Foundation to “immediately coordinate daily inspections of the property and pay for the same.”

Overcoming Capitalism: Strategy for the Working Class in the 21st Century: Reviewed

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, February 8, 2023

While the IWW is not an explicitely anarcho-syndicalist organization, much of its praxis fits comfortably within the anarcho-syndicalist tradition. It's not the only revolutionary organization or union that does, either, and it's evident that anarcho-syndicalism as a living, breathing revolutionary practice is alive and well in the first couple of decades of the 21st Century. It's therefore somewhat puzzling that nobody has bothered to write a book that provides an updated overview of anarcho-syndicalism for a modern audience in well over seven or eight decades.

While there have been no shortage of books that have updated the history of anarcho-syndicalism, including the much covered (but contentiously debated) Spanish Revolution of 1936, as well as numerous revolutionary union organizing efforts throughout the last century; and there have been many books detailing the history, workplace and industrial organizing campaigns, methods, and praxis of syndicalist and/or syndicalist-adjacent unions, such as (but not limited to) the IWW, the IWA-AIT, and many others, there hasn't been an English Language book laying out the basic ideas of anarcho-syndicalism since Sam Dolgoff's and Rudolph Rocker's works of the mid-20th Century.

Fortunately, Overcoming Capitalism: Strategy for the Working Class in the 21st Century, by Tom Wetzel, AK Press, 2022 finally attempts to fill that void.

Family of Forest Defender Killed by Police Demands Answers

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, February 6, 2023

Family members of climate activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán are demanding answers regarding the January 18 police killing of their 26-year-old relative, commonly known as "Tortuguita."

At a press conference held Monday morning outside the DeKalb County courthouse in suburban Atlanta, family members and lawyers discussed the results of a private autopsy and demanded access to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's (GBI) full record of events amid its ongoing probe.

According to the private autopsy, multiple officers from a joint task force shot Tortuguita at least 13 times during a raid on an encampment in the Weelaunee Forest. Tortuguita was part of a collective that occupied the forest in an attempt to prevent the construction of a $90 million, 85-acre police and fire training facility popularly known as Cop City.

The GBI alleges that Tortuguita fired a weapon before officers killed him. The GBI claims that it has traced the bullet that wounded a state trooper to a handgun found at the scene and has reportedly provided documents showing Terán purchased the firearm in 2020. However, law enforcement officials continue to evade basic questions about the fatal shooting.

"Manny was a kind person who helped anyone who needed it," Tortuguita's mother, Belkis Terán, said in a statement shared ahead of the press conference. "He was a pacifist. They say he shot a police officer. I do not believe it."

"I do not understand why they will not even privately explain to us what happened to our child," she added.

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