Dogwood Alliance is horrified and saddened by the death of Manuel Teran. They were affectionately known as Tortuguita. Police shot and killed Tortuguita on January 18th in Atlanta’s Weelaunee Forest. This beautiful forest is in predominantly Black South Atlanta. It’s the proposed site of Cop City. Cop City is a project of the Atlanta Police Foundation, a controversial private group. They’re bulldozing the forest to build police a military-grade training facility. On January 18th, police moved in full force to evict forest defenders who were living there to protect it. They used many militaristic tactics to intimidate and disperse peaceful protestors.
Tortuguita was an Indigenous forest defender. They felt called to protect the forests of this region.
In an interview with Bitter Southerner, they said,
“I fell in love with the woods and I also fell in love with the community.”
They were one of dozens of forest defenders occupying the forest to protect it. We will not tolerate their shocking death at the hands of police violence. The corporate and police violence toward the community and forests is unacceptable.
It’s deeply disturbing to destroy a forest to make a police (playground) training center.
It’s disturbing to ignore the wishes of the mostly Brown and Black people who live nearby. Without protestors confronting the state, this forest would already be gone. We’ve been grateful for the people making a stand to protect the forest. We’ve also been afraid for them.
Meanwhile, this incident shows that this facility is not for police to learn to de-escalate situations. It’s not to avoid killing the people whose very existence the police criminalize. It will be a place to practice and glorify ongoing police violence. A place to practice military-style occupations and assaults on communities.
In Tortuguita’s own words,
“The right kind of resistance is peaceful because that’s where we win. We’re not going to beat them at violence. They’re very, very good at violence. We’re not. We win through nonviolence. That’s really the only way we can win. We don’t want more people to die. We don’t want Atlanta to turn into a war zone.”