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Home » An Activist Slain By Police And Georgia’s State Of Emergency
An Atlanta-based police and fire training facility dubbed “Cop City” by protesters has, following the police killing of an environmental activist and a tense standoff with protesters that prompted the governor to declare a state of national attention garnered emergency.
A police vehicle is set on fire in Atlanta during a Stop Cop City protest.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Important facts
In September 2021, then-Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms approved a lease with the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a police and fire training facility that will use over 85 acres of land in a local Atlanta forest, making it one of Atlanta’s largest Police training institutions in the United States
APF is a non-profit organization that uses private funds to support police efforts in a variety of ways such as: B. by funding surveillance cameras throughout the city and establishing a police leadership institute.
Since the agreement, protesters have been camping out in the woods to stop the construction of the so-called “Cop City,” as the facility is said to include a “mock town” with nightclubs, houses, apartments and more used for training purposes.
Protesters argue that construction of the police training facility will destroy the South River Forest, also known as the Weelaunee Forest by the Muscogee Creek people, who were forcibly evicted from the land by white settlers during the Trail of Tears nearly 200 years ago.
After an environmental activist was killed by police during a protest, clashes between protesters and police escalated and turned violent on January 21, leading to the arrest of six people on charges ranging from first degree arson to domestic terrorism – the Police claim all but one were from outside the country.
On Thursday, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency for “unlawful assembly, open threats of violence, disturbance of the peace and imminent danger to persons and property.” The statement, issued in response to the protests, is effective through Feb. 9, and 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops have been ordered to patrol Atlanta.
The killed activist
Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, an environmental activist who protested the facility, was killed during a planned operation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to identify people who “entered the property and committed other crimes,” according to a GBI press release. The FBI alleges that Georgia State patrol officers gave Terán disobeyed verbal orders and instead shot a soldier dead, after which officers opened fire, killing Terán. He died instantly while the wounded officer was taken to a local hospital. Officers were not wearing body cameras at the time, so footage of the incident is unavailable. Seven other protesters at the scene were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespassing. Terán’s death has drawn attention nationwide, with vigils mourning his death in states from California to Florida, according to Intercept.
Ecological objections to “Cop City”
The Weelaunee Forest canopy is one of the most extensive in the region. Forests are important factors in the fight against climate change, accounting for 30% of the Earth’s surface, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate portal. The Sierra Club Georgia Chapter said in a statement that the forest not only mitigates climate change but also provides a natural filter for air pollution and helps keep the city cool. The organization believes that the benefits offered by the forest “should not be sacrificed to build a training center that is unnecessary and unwanted by the local community”.
Concerns about police violence
Atlanta officials promised the new training facility would be critical to reform following nationwide protests over police brutality in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. The City Council voted 10-4 in favor of the lease, despite 17 hours of public comment largely opposing the lease before the vote. Bottoms stated during a press conference in September 2021 that the $90 million facility is “something that can’t wait.” Critics claim the new facility will only lead to more abuse by the police. “‘Cop City’ is a takeover by a militarized police force, and the project has a body before construction even begins,” said a spokesman for Defend the Atlanta Forest
The Weelaunee Forest was formerly home to the controversial Old Atlanta Prison Farm, a farm operated with unpaid prison labor, according to the Georgia State University History Archive, The Stories of Our Streets. It was originally a plantation, but the Bureau of Prisons and the United States Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta bought the land in 1918 for $160,000 and turned it into Honor Farm. The city of Atlanta continued to use the prison farm into the 1990s, until it disbanded in 1995.
7 charged with domestic terrorism after shooting near proposed Atlanta police training facility (CNN).
Cop City Goes National (The Intercept)
Atlanta City Council passes proposal for police and fire training center (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
“The Birds Have Quit Singing”: Fighting for Atlanta’s South River Forest (Atlanta Magazine)