The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jennifer K. Falcon

Pressure Continues to Mount Against Cop City Project as Body Cam Footage Released

As the reasons against Cop City continue to pile up, both local and worldwide dissent is growing. Students, community members, and even politicians are beginning to speak up.

On February 8th, the Atlanta Police Department (APD) released videos of the January 18 raid on the Weelaunee Forest during which Georgia State Patrol (GSP) assassinated forest defender Manuel “Tortugita” Esteban Paez Terán. One video shows the moments before and after GSP troopers opened fire on Tortugita. An APD officer standing some 100 feet from the tent where Tortugita was killed can be heard saying, " fucked your own officer up?" in reference to the GSP trooper that was also shot. Another officer wonders: "Did they shoot their own in there?" Another responds: "Mhm." The officers appear to be discussing the possibility of a friendly fire incident as they turn off their body cameras.

Not only does APD's release of these videos contradict the agency's own statements about the presence of their officers in the forest during the shooting, it brings into question the GBI's entire narrative of events - which has barely been shared with the public, much less Tortugita's family.

The same day Tortugita was killed, Nicole Morado quit the Community Stakeholders Advisory Committee (CSAC) in protest. Morado stated she feared a protestor would be killed as police raids continued to intensify.

Morado also criticized the CSAC as a group made to manufacture community consent for a deeply unpopular project, noting how members were urged to push a "violent outside agitator" narrative about protestors to local news organizations, despite another CSAC member previously being removed for speaking to the media.

Amy Taylor, a CSAC member, has filed an appeal against the land disturbace permits issued by the Dekalb Department of Planning and Sustainability to the Atlata Police Foundation to build Cop City. Taylor, a resident of the neighborhood adjacent to the proposed Cop City site, told The Guardian, "My community doesn't want this." If even members of the so-called Community Stakeholders Advisory Committee, once held up by Mayor Dickens as proof of the community's approval of Cop City, have been forced to admit that the project is unneeded and unwanted, how can the Mayor and his friends at the police foundation justify pushing forward?

After a letter from Morehouse College faculty circulated calling on other educators, students, and the college itself to denounce Cop City, Mayor Dickens attempted to hold a closed-door meeting to "educate" Atlanta University Center students and faculty on the "facts". Student organizers refused, resulting in a semi-public forum open only to AUC students hosted on February 7th at Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.

For over four hours, students continually raised concerns about Cop City and Morehouse College's support for the project. Mayor Dickens became visibly flustered, defensive, and condescending to students. At one point, the Mayor announced: "I am not a sell-out!", and referred students to his resume. Students also demanded that Morehouse President David A. Thomas, a supporter of the project, renounce his support for it; Thomas replied that he would sooner resign. Councilmember and Cop City supporter Michael Julian Bond was also encouraged to leave from outside the forum with a chant of "Shame! Shame!"

Mayor Dickens and the Atlanta Police Foundation would tell us that everyone opposed to Cop City is an "outisde agitator" - hardly a term that can be applied to students from Morehouse College, an institution with a deep connection to our city's history.

Students, community members, and even video released by his own police department are calling into question the narrative around Tortugita's murder, and the justification for building Cop City in the first place. We challenge Mayor Dickens and the Atlanta Police Foundation to STOP COP CITY.

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