By ERWIN FREED
Activists and community members in Atlanta, Ga., have been engaged in a fierce struggle under severe state repression since the beginning of 2021. As Workers’ Voice has reported in a number of articles, an important movement has developed to protest the construction of a militarized police-training center, “Cop City,” and to defend the Weelaunee/South River Forest. In the face of broad opposition to Cop City by residents in neighborhoods closest to the planned construction site, the police and state authorities at every level are elevating their use of violence and frame-up charges to attempt to intimidate and disperse the movement.
Since people first started voicing opposition to Cop City, a task force combining Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia state, and federal police agencies has been surveilling, harassing, and attacking activists and the surrounding communities. The entire bipartisan political establishment both locally and around the United States have lined up in support of Cop City. Under the leadership of DeKalb County’s Democratic-led district attorney’s office, at least 19 activists have been charged with “domestic terrorism.”
In a further escalation of historic importance, on Jan. 18, Georgia state police officers murdered forest defender Manuel “Manny” Paez-Terán, known in the woods as Tortuguita. Tortuguita is remembered warmly by everyone who knew them as a loving friend, comrade, and someone who dedicated their life to building a better world.
Instead of backing down in the face of these escalations by the violent arm of the state, activists in Atlanta deepened their activities and called for national and international solidarity. Important demonstrations and growing activism by Atlanta University Center students, a collection of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), has shown the fighting capacity raging through the city. Open letters denouncing Cop City and calling for well-known institutions to cut ties with the Atlanta Police Foundation, the main backer of the Cop City project, have been sent and signed by hundreds of public health personnel, clergy, and from university communities.
A week of solidarity action was called for Feb. 19-26, which saw demonstrations all around the United States at companies connected with Cop City. A second week of action is planned for March 4-11, with the intention of bringing as many people as possible to Atlanta for a series of mass mobilizations in the city.
Workers’ Voice has endorsed this call and is sending a delegation to participate in actions and help publicize the movement. We strongly urge all of our readers and supporters to come to Atlanta or participate in the national day of action on March 9 called by the Community Movement Builders and others. Look for updates and events at DefendTheAtlantaForest.Org/Calendar.