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Stop Cop City Activists Plan Mass Return to Weelaunee Forest

By Cody Bloomfield - Truthout, November 5, 2023

In April, as the Atlanta Police Foundation erected high fences with razor wire around the site of the planned Public Safety Training Center dubbed “Cop City,” Atlanta organizer Jaye C. began photographing the construction, poking her camera through the chain link fence, documenting as 33 acres of forest became part of a barren expanse. In March, police chased, tasered and arrested activists on domestic terrorism charges until protesters were finally forced to cede the forest that they had occupied for the better part of two years. The fences went up, and Stop Cop City organizers pivoted. Protest continued at public buildings, neighboring parks, and the homes and businesses of contractors. Activists doubled down on legal challenges to the project and launched a campaign to put Cop City on the ballot. But the actual construction site became impenetrable.

A group of Stop Cop City activists aim to change that, to once again put their bodies on the line to block Cop City, to buy time before the Atlanta Police Foundation can destroy the remaining 50 or so acres of forest. A mere week after the RICO indictment of 61 activists, the newly christened Block Cop City wing of the movement issued a call to action to supporters around the country: Show up. Cause trouble (nonviolently, organizers clarify). We’ll see you in the forest.

The mass mobilization will take place in Atlanta from November 10-13. In the run-up to it, Block Cop City organizers embarked on a breakneck speaking tour, visiting over 70 cities in less than two months. They hope that at each place they visit, a few people will decide to come down to Atlanta, culminating in hundreds converging on November 13 to march on the construction site. Organizers have intentionally prioritized making plans for the protest public, and intend for the protest, described as mass nonviolent direct action, to challenge the legitimacy of the state through civil disobedience rather than sabotage. In the decentralized Stop Cop City movement, November’s action is but one tactic. But it’s an important one, particularly now, when Atlanta has ensnared dozens of activists in criminal proceedings while conspiring against democratic resistance.

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Mutual Aid and the movement to Stop Cop City

By Dean Spade - Shareable, October 9, 2023

On August 29, 2023, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr filed an indictment against 61 members of the movement to Defend the Atlanta Forest and Stop Cop City. The indictment alleges a vast criminal conspiracy on the part of the activists, weaving them together in a legal scheme so fantastical that one of the accused is cited for being reimbursed for Elmer’s Glue. 

It’s a patchwork case with Carr — the announced 2026 Georgia gubernatorial candidate — creating a veritable Charlotte’s Web; scrawling words in the web in a desperate ploy for attention. Unfortunately, it also represents a brazen assault on social justice organizers reminiscent of the FBI’s surveillance and attacks on the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the 1960s and 70s. 

In order to justify the harsh charges, each carrying up to 25 years in prison, Carr attempts to link the protestors together based on their shared commitments to collective welfare and mutual aid. In other words, the State of Georgia is currently arguing that participation in mutual aid projects and practicing solidarity constitutes furthering a criminal conspiracy.

If Carr is going to try to make a twisted image of mutual aid tantamount to terrorism, we should all get clear on what mutual aid really is.

No Charges to be Filed in the Police Killing of Manuel Paez Terán

By Atlanta Community Press Collective - It's Going Down, October 9, 2023

Report from the Atlanta Community Press collective on move by the Mountain District Attorney to not file charges against the SWAT team which murdered Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán.

Mountain District Attorney (DA) George R. Christian released a 31-page report on Friday and determined that no charges will be filed against the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) SWAT officers responsible for the January killing of environmental activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán near the site of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, more commonly known as Cop City.

Six GSP SWAT officers shot and killed Terán on Jan. 18 while participating in a multi-agency raid on encampments set up by activists attempting to stop the construction of Cop City. In a press conference hours after the shooting, then-Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) head Mike Register — who left the GBI over the summer — said that Terán had fired on officers without warning, striking one, prompting the GSP officers to return fire and kill Terán. Activists immediately rejected the GBI narrative and called for an independent investigation, which did not happen. Footage from a body camera worn by an Atlanta Police Department officer nearby to the shooting also cast doubt on the GBI narrative as the officer wearing the body camera can be heard saying “you fucked your own officer up.”

According to a report by the DeKalb Medical examiner, Terán was shot dozens of times, receiving 57 gunshot wounds, including multiple wounds from the same bullets. An independent medical examiners report stated that Terán was likely killed in a cross-legged position with hands raised, palms facing inward. Neither the DeKalb nor independent medical examiners found evidence of gun-shot residue (GSR) on Terán’s hands. A GSR test kit report released by the GBI said analysts found GSR particles but acknowledged, “it is possible for victims of gunshot wounds, both self-inflicted and non-self-inflicted, to have GSR present on their hands.”

The GBI announced an investigation into the fatal shooting on Jan. 18, hours after the death of Teràn. In April, once the GBI’s initial investigation was complete, those findings were passed on to Christian to determine whether to bring charges against the officers. Typically, the decision to bring charges rests with the DA for the area in which the shooting took place, but DeKalb County DA Sherry Boston recused herself from the case on the grounds of her office’s participation in the raid that led to the killing of Terán. The GBI also participated in the same raid, but the office did not recuse itself from the investigation.

UPI: Georgia state troopers who shot, killed ‘Cop City’ protester won’t face charges

By Heather Lee - Global Justice Ecology Project, October 8, 2023

On October 6, 2023, Patrick Hilsman article Georgia state troopers who shot, killed ‘Cop City’ protester won’t face charges appeared on the UPI (United Press International) website.

The article reports that a Georgia court has ruled that state troopers who shot and killed Cop City protester Manuel Teran won’t face charges.

The article states that Manuel Teran, known as “Tortuguita”, was killed on January 18, 2023, when Georgia State Patrol troopers raided an activist campsite near the construction site for Cop City. Investigators had said Teran refused to leave the area and troopers fired “sublethal” rounds of ammunition at Teran’s tent. Teran had 57 bullet wounds, including entry and exit wounds.

The article also states how investigators say Teran had fired on officers, which does not align with an autopsy ordered by Teran’s relatives that showed Teran had their hands raised at the time of the shooting and did not have gunshot residue on their hands. There is also no body camera footage of the fatal shooting.

DA pro tempore for Stone Mountain’s Judicial Circuit Court, George R. Christian, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution “no criminal charges will be brought against the Georgia State Patrol Troopers involved in the shooting of Manuel Paez Teran” and that “The use of lethal (deadly) force by the Georgia State Patrol was objectively reasonable,”.

In April 2023, U.S. House members sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Chris Wray demanding answers on the police response to the protests.

The article can be read in full on the UPI (United Press International) website.

'Stop Cop City' Campaigners Decry State's Refusal to Charge Georgia Troopers Who Shot Activist 57 Times

By Brett Wilkins - Common Dreams, October 6, 2023

Human rights advocates on Friday condemned a Georgia prosecutor's decision to not charge the state troopers who fatally shot forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán—better known as "Tortuguita"—during a militarized January raid at a Stop Cop City protest camp outside Atlanta.

"The system has, once again, declared its own innocence," Stop Cop City activist Micah Herskind wrote on social media in response to the decision by the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney's office.

The Cop City Vote Coalition (CCVC) campaign said that "Tortuguita's memory and the memories of all those stolen by police killings demand that we all continue the collective struggle for a future without state violence."

Autoworkers—And All of Us—Deserve a Much Shorter Workweek

By Alex Han - In These Times, September 25, 2023

May 1886. As part of a national movement to win an eight-hour workday, workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago are on strike. Police attack, killing at least one person and injuring multiple others. The next day, labor leaders organize a peaceful mass rally at Haymarket Square. A bomb goes off and police indiscriminately shoot protesters.

The confrontation became an international rallying cry for labor advocates, but it would be 54 more years before the 40-hour workweek became enshrined by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. A year later, the rapidly growing United Auto Workers brought to heel the Ford Motor Company— perhaps the most anti-union of the Big Three automakers at the time— by securing workers’ first collective bargaining agreement with the company. 

The growth of the industrial economy, along with a militant and newly organized working class, would force meaningful concessions from capital. But the eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek would require a global crisis — in this case, capital’s need for labor peace during World War II — to become a reality. 

We now have the great opportunity of existing not in the midst of a single global crisis, but a ​“polycrisis.”

Cop City RICO indictment casts protesters as organized criminals

By Jocelyn James - Prism, September 20, 2023

The First Amendment’s fundamental principle is ensuring everyone’s right to be heard. However, the recent application of RICO against the Atlanta Cop City protesters could spell disastrous consequences for any U.S. citizen looking to exercise this unalienable right.

On Aug. 29, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr filed a sweeping, 109-page indictment targeting 61 activists opposed to the construction of a multi-million dollar police training facility for the Atlanta Police Department (APD). The facility would come at the cost of approximately 85 acres of environmentally significant forestland, known as both the South River Forest and the Weelaunee Forest. It is also the historical location of the Old Atlanta City Prison Farm.

The filing went largely unannounced and inconspicuous until Sept. 5, when the Atlanta Community Press Collective broke the news of the indictment on X, formerly known as Twitter. Critics have since viewed the indictment as a massive escalation in an ongoing police retaliation campaign to criminalize public dissent and discourage protesters. 

In a public statement, Center for Popular Democracy Action Executive Directors Analilia Mejia and DaMareo Cooper said: “Make no mistake: these are political prosecutions in the name of getting more cops on the street to further persecute our communities. We see right through these attacks and refuse to be silenced or intimidated.”

The Struggle to Stop Cop City—By Any Means Necessary

By Micah Herskind and Kamau Franklin - The Forge, September 7, 2023

A history of Stop Cop City and the struggle to defend the Atlanta Forest. A must read for anyone interested in getting the whole story and understanding the strategic thinking informing some of the most important organizing in the country or understanding the stakes of the 61 indictments against protesters involved in the movement.

Cop cars on fire. Occupations of the Weelaunee Forest. Weeks of action. Volunteers with clipboards, collecting referendum petition signatures in the summer heat. Weekly canvassing. Town halls and open mic sessions. Direct action and civil disobedience. Record-breaking numbers of people showing up for public comment (on three separate occasions!). Regular food distributions and mutual aid. Surveillance cameras smashed. Music festivals in the forest. Comrade care clinics. Protests outside the homes of politicians and CEOs. Trivia night fundraisers at local restaurants. Shareholder divestment campaigns. Wheatpasting, movement art, and diss track competitions. Children marching in the streets. Political education and community journalism. Jail support crews sitting vigil for people whose freedom was purchased by bail fund organizers. Bank ATMs vandalized. Corporate pressure campaigns. Marches, demonstrations, and solidarity actions across the globe. Construction equipment burned.

These are all scenes—by no means the full story—from the movement to Stop Cop City: a decentralized, autonomous movement that has worked since the spring of 2021 to stop the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest and the creation of a more than $90 million urban warfare training center, backed by a coalition of public and private Atlanta elites, in a majority Black working class community. 

They are also all activities that the state is aggressively seeking to criminalize, most recently with a sprawling indictment filed days ago that charged 61 people with domestic terrorism and RICO (“racketeer influenced and corrupt organization”). The indictment is a blatant attempt to intimidate local organizers and movements across the country who are challenging the violence of policing, and to influence public opinion against the popular community-based struggle to stop construction of the facility.

The Stop Cop City movement has made Atlanta an epicenter of abolitionist organizing, weaving together movements for racial, economic, and environmental justice. The movement has no single unifying political framework; it includes abolitionists, anarchists, communists, liberals, libertarians, environmentalists, voting and civil rights activists, Indigenous and anti-settler colonialism organizers, and many more who may not identify with a particular political philosophy but who all choose trees over cops, transparency over backroom deals, and community resources over a burgeoning police state.

The movement’s decentralization and diversity of tactics has been one of its greatest strengths, building an astonishing breadth and depth of local, national, and international support. While comprising many different streams of action and thought, each has fed into the movement’s broader strategy: call it starving the beast, a war of attrition, or even just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, the ethos of the movement is that community members must engage on all fronts to make Cop City as untenable, toxic, and challenging as possible for those working to build it. That we must stop Cop City by any means necessary.

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