Statement on the Killing of Tortuguita by Atlanta Police

On January 18th, Tortuguita, a brave and beloved Weelaunee Forest Defender, was killed by Atlanta Police. As people of conscience, as breathers of air, as anti-imperialists, as feminists, pacifists, activists – we condemn this state-sanctioned murder.

Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, AKA Tortuguita, is the victim of an expanding and increasingly militarized machine of state violence, suppression, racist policing, and environmental destruction. Activists in the Stop Cop City movement have put their bodies on the line to protect the Weelaunee Forest from the development of a monster urban policing training center. If constructed, it will equip thousands of police units from across the country to replicate and escalate the deadly and racist tactics employed by modern American law enforcement institutions. It is sadly unsurprising, too, that Cop City will facilitate Atlanta Police’s continued exchange of militarized police tactics with the Israeli Police Force, itself an arm of racialized state violence and repression.

The construction of “Cop City” would raze the Weelaunee Forest, home for millennia to the original forest defenders, the Muscogee people, who were illegally and lethally forced out of their territory by the United States. The current residents of the area surrounding Weelaunee Forest, largely Black Americans, are overwhelmingly opposed to the Cop City project, which would destroy the most crucial carbon store in the area and would only serve to supercharge the deadly policing apparatus.

The state of Georgia has already charged more than a dozen Forest Defenders with “domestic terrorism” for occupying the forest, showing the extent to which our government is prepared to escalate against activists with wartime rhetoric and suppression tactics. There is a tragic, inescapable irony to this charge.

When a living forest is under threat of total destruction; when lives are stolen in the name of  “justice;” when those killed are disproportionately Black and Brown men; when armed forces are deployed to expedite deadly resource extraction and accelerate the climate crisis; we ask:

Who are the real domestic terrorists?

Forests are the lungs of the Earth. Every tree felled for major development robs our planet of its natural ability to release oxygen into the atmosphere and store carbon in the soil. This knowledge is what drives the forest defenders to put their bodies on the line, just as environmental activists the world over resist and disrupt systematic deforestation which is linked to Indigenous displacement and fascist governments. It has become tragically commonplace to hear of land defenders and environmental activists in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico the Philippines, and Honduras being killed for their bold defiance of environmental destruction. Tortuguita’s killing must shock us into action and guide our demands to ensure that no more activists are killed, whether here in North America or across the Global South, for their acts of conscience. Particularly, this killing must serve as a wakeup call to those in the climate movement who have yet to draw the connections between natural resource extraction and the rampant US militarism which threatens people and their environments here and abroad.

CODEPINK stands with the Weelaunee Forest Defenders, who are risking their freedom and lives to prevent an appalling misappropriation of $90 million. We recognize that the cost of Cop City is not only the unacceptable destruction of the forest and the militarization of police. Cop City is part and parcel of this country’s perennial failure to prioritize healthcare over police, green jobs over nukes, working families over Wall Street, Indigenous communities over oil profits – in short, life over death. Tortuguita’s killing is a testament to a broader sickness in American policy, and as we call for an end to deadly US intervention abroad, we join in calls to bring it to a halt here, at home.

RIP Tortuguita. Stop Cop City.

In Solidarity, CODEPINK

Codepink is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs. Read other articles by Codepink, or visit Codepink's website.