Cop City Is The Problem, Not The Solution To Crime

Atlanta has a serious police violence problem that politicians choose to ignore. Instead, they say Atlanta has a crime problem, and more police and jails are the answer. But too many innocent and unarmed people of color are dying at the hands of the police. Police rarely are held accountable because of qualified immunity, which shields police from personal liability for their actions.

It takes a video of the victim being murdered and massive nationwide protests like George Floyd had before the victim’s family got any justice.

The crime politicians want to stop was created by lawmakers at the state capitol who passed laws allowing anyone to buy a gun or an assault weapon without background checks or permits, and people can open carry. More guns and assault weapons in more hands equal more crime, not less crime. If you want less crime, pass sensible gun laws and outlaw assault weapons of war for personal use.

So what did politicians do after the murder of George Floyd, Rashard Brooks, and many other victims of police violence? In Atlanta, they decided to reward the police with the largest resort-style training center in the country and destroy a forest that is the “lungs of Atlanta” during climate change.

The citizens of DeKalb and Fulton counties said a loud NO to that project dubbed “Cop City.” Governor Brian Kemp pressured the Atlanta City Council to vote for Cop City even though 70% of the public said NO in a 2-day call-in to the council. Kemp said, “The city is facing a crime crisis, and a drastic rise in violent crime is plaguing residents.”  The council’s vote for Cop City was a blatant disregard for democracy and their constituents.

For two years, people tried to stop this controversial project. Over 40 forest defenders have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism with either no bond or unrealistic bond amounts. Most were randomly arrested for just being in the Weelaunee Forest.

The struggle between the citizens and the police became a crisis on January 18, 2023. Multiple police agencies (APD, DKPD, GBI, FBI, GSP, Homeland Security) entered the Weelaunee Forest like a military operation, searching out the enemy with AR-15s and other military guns to remove peaceful young people sleeping in tents at gunpoint.

Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, a 26-year-old Indigenous non-binary environmental activist (pronouns they/them), was shot 14 times by different guns and shotguns and killed by multiple Georgia State Troopers that day. Tort was shot in the head, right eye, upper chest, abdomen, arms, legs, and both hands. The troopers were not wearing body cameras. 

The suspicious circumstances of Tortuguita’s death have generated more protests nationwide. The family wants an independent investigation into the death of their beloved son. An independent autopsy revealed Tort died sitting down with hands up. 

Sit-Like-Tort Protest

In Atlanta, across from the state capitol, over 100 people honored Tortuguita with a sit-like-Tort protest with red X marks on everyone’s hands to visually demonstrate that Tort was sitting with hands up when they died. The red X on our hands symbolizes our testament to Tort’s innocence and a symbol of resistance as we continue to resist peacefully.

“We are here to ensure Tortuguita’s name lives on forever and lives on in truth. We are here today to stand in the face of police repression and a threat by the establishment in the City of Atlanta in DeKalb County and the State of Georgia,” Rev. Keyanna Jones said. 

 “Manny loved the forest and meditated there, and it connected them with God.

Tort was a very polite, caring person and was loved by everyone who knew them,” Belkis Teran, Manuel’s mother, said.

“Manny graduated from Florida State University Magna Cumme Laude and majored in psychology and sociology. They studied the Climate Clock in Panama and environmental issues. Manny traveled worldwide, including Europe, Japan, and Uganda. Manny was always helping people, cleaning the beach after a hurricane, and giving money to those in need,” Belkis said.

Mothers of Murdered Children Stands with Belkis Teran

Mothers of murdered children belong to a club no one wants to belong to, but that grows larger yearly. They are not alone and will never stop fighting for justice for their children.

Other families here today whose children were murdered by police are:

Kathy Scott Lykes and her husband Joe, parents of Jarvis Lykes, who was murdered in Columbus by Georgia State Troopers. Ingrid Smyrna, the mother of Andrew Smyrna, was murdered in DeKalb County by a Georgia State Trooper. Leden Boyukins mother said he died when a Georgia State Trooper performed a controversial PIT maneuver causing the car to flip over and kill her 12-year-old son, Leden. Nadia, the partner of 23-year-old Osiris Bennett, was shot and killed by a Marta police officer.

These families have not received justice for the murder of their family members. The officers who murdered their children were never suspended, fired, charged with an offense, or even disciplined.

Remember Jamari Robinson, who was murdered by 17 police officers and had 76 bullets in his body. There are too many murders by police to name. See the link for more information on police killings

Nearly 1,200 people were killed by police in 2022, and the number increased every year. In most situations, shooting to kill seems to be the first option for most police officers.

It’s not about training, these officers have been training for decades, and we are still dying at their hands. It’s about a violent police culture. They do not value our lives. If you run, you die; if you are innocent, you die. If you obey the police, you can still die. The police come up with excuses and reasons for killing us. 

What is Cop City

Cop City is a militarized police training center to control social justice movements and black communities. It is not about reducing crime. It is about control and domination of specific communities. Forty-three percent of officers who will be trained at Cop City will not be from Georgia. 

“Georgia has a training program with the Israeli police to train the tactics, strategies, and brutality they use against Palestinians. They will use those tactics to oppress and suppress black communities. It’s not meant to solve crimes. It’s meant as a mechanism of control,” Kamau Franklin, founder of Community Movement Builders, said.

All that money, $90 million, wasted on cop city and more jails could be better used for accessible and affordable housing for the homeless and working poor, healthcare for everyone, paying employees a livable wage, more money for education, and access to healthy food.

Climate Change and the Climate Clock

Another reason people don’t want Cop City and the destruction of the forest is the few forests left are our front-line defense against climate change. People in their 20s and 30s may not have a future, which is why they are fighting so hard to stop Cop City and the destruction of the forest. Without forests, this planet will not be liveable. 

Tortuguita studied the climate clock when he was alive. It is a visual countdown of the time we have left to take action before climate change reaches a tipping point, resulting in damages that last for centuries. 

Scientists say we have less than eight years left to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the worst effects of climate change from becoming irreversible.

We need Tortuguita’s climate clock in Atlanta to hang in City Hall.

Written and photos by Gloria Tatum

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