January 22, 2023
ATLANTA – Last night, during a community march in response to the murder of Tortuguita, a forest defender opposed to the $90 million Cop City development, witnesses state that the Atlanta Police Department (APD) hit a protestor with a car before arresting him. APD also arrested five more protesters, violently slamming several individuals to the ground. Videos of the arrests show marchers screaming that they are unable to breathe as police pushed them into the ground.
Community reports also indicate that APD engaged in reckless vehicular pursuit of protesters including driving at high speeds in the wrong direction on one-way streets and tailing those calmly leaving the march.
The protestor hit by an APD vehicle was not immediately rendered medical aid. When he asked why he was being arrested, videos of the arrest show that police refused to answer and moved him to a squad car, still refusing medical aid to the protestor.
The GBI stated in a press release: “Breaking windows is not protest; it is terrorism,” clearly demonstrating that they value property over human lives and wellbeing. They—alongside Mayor Andre Dickens, Brian Kemp, APD, GSP, and Ryan Millsap—have shown that they value corporations’ assets more than the communities and ecosystems affected by the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest. Their statement also shows law enforcement’s dedication to characterizing the movement to defend the forest as a domestic terrorism group in order to validate and justify their wrongful murder of Tortuguita and continued violence against protestors.
In a press conference last night, police stated that protestors were protesting in the wrong way, and that “protest is engaging your elected officials … protest is standing on the courthouse lawn, city hall lawn, on every sidewalk.” The same police force, however, has also escalated protests that align with their vision of the “right” way to protest. In September 2021, 12 protestors were arrested for protesting on the sidewalk outside an elected official’s home.
Though the police and Mayor Andre Dickens claim to want an end to violence, they have regularly escalated their tactics against opponents of the Cop City project, firing pepper balls and mace at close range, conducting brutal arrests, vehicular assault, and murder. Cop City construction has not even begun, and its backers have already leveraged violence of all kinds against its opponents. The Cop City facility, if completed, will only bring increased violence, the likes of which our communities are still grieving with the murder of Tortuguita, to all of Atlanta and beyond.
We demand Mayor Andre Dickens and the Atlanta City Council finally listen to their constituents and:
1.) Conduct an independent investigation into the murder of Tortuguita
2.) Immediately terminate the lease of the Weelaunee Forest to the Atlanta Police Foundation.
3.) Protect and preserve the forest. Reopen the public park.
4.) Drop all charges against protestors arrested in opposition to the Cop City development.
5.) Reallocate APD’s $230 million budget to meet the real needs of Atlanta residents, which do not include further police militarization and violence.
While tomorrow will bring repaired windows and new police cars, nothing will bring back Tortuguita.
Stop Cop City! Defend the Atlanta Forest!