Several things are happening at once with regard to this story. On the one hand, it appears the protests inside the forest south of Atlanta where a police training center will be built this year may be over. CNN reports that police performed another “clearing operation” yesterday and this time there were no arrests.
Law enforcement in Georgia carried out a “clearing operation” on Monday at the planned site of a $90 million police training facility – dubbed “Cop City” by opponents – nearly three weeks after a similar operation ended with officers fatally shooting a protester.
“In an ongoing effort to ensure that the site of the future City of Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is safe and secure, the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation), along with other law enforcement partners, conducted an operation to identify people who are illegally trespassing and/or engaging in criminal activity on the property,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Nelly Miles said in a statement. “Police made no arrests during this operation.”
Last month, police said anyone they contacted was given a chance to leave without facing charges and that a couple of protesters had taken that option. So it’s not clear if they encountered some protesters who agreed to leave or if the forest was empty. Either way, the construction crews can now move in and get to work.
But there are reasons to think this isn’t really over. For one thing, the group organizing the protests in the forest are calling for actions in solidarity with them later this month. This is basically an open call for protests and destructive behavior (a diversity of tactics) all around the country.
COP CITY WILL NEVER BE BUILT!
A week of solidarity has been announced February 19-26 to #StopCopCity and defend the forest everywhere!
Check out https://t.co/qxOS5YARWu pic.twitter.com/rrrqAazZwd
— Defend the Atlanta Forest (@defendATLforest) February 2, 2023
They’re already planning for another “week of action” next month:
“WE ARE ALL FOREST DEFENDERS!”
A week of action to defend the ATL forest and stop Cop City announced for March 4-11 in Atlanta, GA pic.twitter.com/SAJwUEsDRx
— Defend the Atlanta Forest (@defendATLforest) February 6, 2023
For another thing, the group continues to push their cause on social media. They released this over-the-top statement earlier today. It reads in part, “The Planet Destroyers think we are afraid, we are not. The powerful imagine they can defeat us with their daily blows. They can’t, we are sown all over the place, we are growing there where there are bits of soil.” It concludes, “Our dead, those murdered by the destroyers of worlds, are in every leaf of every forest in the world…”
— Defend the Atlanta Forest (@defendATLforest) February 7, 2023
The idea that police (or maybe the construction crews building the new site) are “planet destroyers” seems a bit grandiose even for these extremists. But they’ve gone past the point of thinking clearly into the stage of writing bad prose in which their opponents are the source of all evil and they, by extension, are heroes.
Meanwhile, they continue to paint the young man killed last month as a martyr in this conflict. But a martyr for what exactly? According to the people who were part of the protest, he wanted to defend the forest:
Terán had graduated from Florida State University and had been active in environmental causes, Terán’s mother Belkis said.
“All Manuel wanted to do was to protect the forest, preserve the good of the land for all people, create awareness, and help organize different communities. They had no malice or no intention of committing illegal acts,” she said, adding they were pacifists with no intention of resorting to violence as a way of defending themselves. “Manuel was a defender of the forest. Manuel had a heart full of love for the people, animals and trees.”
If that were so, then Manuel would still be alive. But he also bought a gun and fired it that day, hitting a State Trooper. And that’s why he was shot and killed, not because he wanted to protect the forest.
To be fair, the protesters and the family don’t believe the police are telling the truth though I have yet to hear any coherent explanation of why Manuel had a gun and who fired it at a trooper that day if not him. They are demanding access to bodycam video which the Georgia Bureau of Investigations has already said the troopers were not wearing. They’ve also said other cops in the forest that day did have bodycams and that may show the aftermath of the shooting. They’ve said they’ll release that material after the investigation is complete. The family deserves a full accounting of what happened here but so far there’s no reason to suspect any foul play.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace released a video today in which people are talking about Manuel as if he was protesting the fossil fuel industry and not “cop city.” I understand he had previously been involved in several environmental protests but in this case the forest wasn’t being cleared to build a drilling site for oil and gas. It was being cleared for a police training center. And Manuel wasn’t shot by Exxon or someone working for a fossil fuel giant. He was shot by Georgia police. So the idea that he was a climate activist killed by the desperate fossil fuel industry seems like a real stretch in this case.
.@DefendAtlForest‘s demands are, “Cop city must never be built – not here, not anywhere. Not one blade of grass! Not one tree! Free the prisoners, drop the charges!”
We join the cries of solidarity with Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Terán and the forest defenders around the world. 💚 pic.twitter.com/iIo5KMu1XF
— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) February 7, 2023
As for the woman who is shouting, “This could be any of us at any goddamn time!” Yes, it could be anyone who fires a gun at the police. Once you do that, you’re liable to get shot. But as I’ve pointed out several times, no one else died that day. The protesters who agreed to leave and those who were arrested are all alive and well.
Bottom line, shooting at police is not civil disobedience. The fact that these activists refuse to make that part of their narrative suggests to me that they are still quite dangerous.