Police kill Atlanta forest defender

I’ve been trying to follow events surrounding the effort to stop Cop City in Atlanta, GA. Today, police killed one forest defender during a raid:

Today the police shot and killed a protester in Weelaunee Forest.

Dozens of heavily armed DeKalb Police, Atlanta Police and Georgia State police shut down Weelaunee People’s Park and nearby streets before entering the tree line with guns drawn and heavy machinery poised to continue forest destruction.

Police have repeatedly raided this public park, flattened community gardens and art installations, attacked protestors with chemical weapons and rubber bullets, and threatened lethal force. During past raids, police have consistently escalated violent tactics on peaceful people who were sitting in trees or walking through the public park. Since June 6, 2022, activists and community members fighting to Defend the Atlanta Forest and Stop Cop City have been demanding that officers stop bringing weapons into the forest after APD pointed their weapons at peaceful protestors.

The police and local news are working together to control the flow of information, leaving us with vague news reports that suggest the officer fired at the civilian in self-defense. We know they will say and do anything to prevent an Atlanta officer from being viewed as another Derek Chauvin, including witholding, distorting, or deleting evidence. Supporters of the movement are calling on legal observers and journalists to document the violent police tactics being used against protestors.

Since the fatal shooting, this morning’s operation has continued with Brasfield and Gorrie’s heavy machinery entering the forest and cops shooting pepper balls at people who remain in the park–as if nothing has happened. The loss of our lives remains meaningless to the police. Police killed a forest defender for loving this earth, for taking a stand against the ongoing destruction of the planet and its people. Indiscriminate police murder, unfettered police violence is exactly why people have, for two years, called for the Cop City project to be cancelled immediately. As politicians invest in cops, militarization and police budgets are only increasing. Meanwhile, police murders peaked in 2022: U.S. cops killed 100 people every month.

It is unclear what exactly happened, beyond the fact that the confrontation was started by police attacking the forest defenders. Police claim that a protester shot one of their officers, but I think it’s important to remember that cops lie about pretty much everything, especially when it comes to making themselves look good. It’s not clear to me at what point self defense is broadly considered justified against police, nor is it always easy to decide how far to go in opposing a destructive government action, in a society supposedly run along democratic principles. I think it’s pretty clear, however, that police do not have popular support or consent for their brutality, or for this particular project.

We should not be increasing police militarization. We should not be clearing forests in general, let alone in communities already suffering from environmental racism and other systemic injustice. This is another example of police actively perpetrating injustice – using violence against people who stand in their way, even knowing that they don’t have popular consent. Hell, they never even tried to get popular consent.

From what I can tell, the cops are committed to destroying this park, and other parts of the forest, and building their training facility, no matter what the people who live there think about it. I’ve heard it said that for black communities, cops are often more of an occupying force than a public service, and moments like this make that particularly apparent.

If you want resources on how to show solidarity or help out with this effort, I’ll refer you back to my most recent post on the topic. I’ll try to post an update on this topic soon.


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