As domestic terrorism laws are wielded against climate activists, we must resist the urge to turn to the carceral state for protection.

by Reina Sultan, Prism

On March 5, during a Stop Cop City “week of action” in Atlanta, organizers held a music festival that drew over 1,000 people, some of whom later joined an action about a mile away at a Cop City construction site. Police arrested about 35 people and jailed 23 of them on domestic terrorism charges. All but one—a legal observer—were denied bond. The arrests, subsequent domestic terrorism charges, and bond denials are the natural continuation of the violent repression of land defenders and, more broadly, radical left groups in Atlanta and beyond.

The police response to the activists attempting to stop Cop City has consistently been violent—as policing always is. On Jan. 18, Georgia State Patrol shot and killed a 26-year-old queer, Indigenous-Venezuelan protester named Manuel “Tortuguita” Teránwhose hands were raised when they were shot. Many who attended the week of action were honoring their memory and continuing their work against the destruction of the forest.

Protesters gathered on 5th Avenue and march to JP Morgan Headquarters in New York to rally against Atlanta Cop City on March 9, 2023

As forest defenders and community members fighting to stop Cop City encounter escalating police violence and state repression, we must continue to resist attempts to expand the definitions of crime. The carceral state will continue to weaponize the legal expansions of crime against those it more consistently oppresses.

The movement to Stop Cop City began two years ago, with organizers most recently holding their fifth week of action that included a march near Weelaunee People’s Park and reoccupying the forest after police raids in January. Weelaunee Forest, originally stolen from the Muscogee Creek people, is at risk because of a planned tactical training compound that would destroy 85 acres of forest for the proliferation of the police state. DeKalb County officials also want to trade away 40 acres of Intrenchment Creek Park—part of Weelaunee Forest—in a land swap to expand Blackhall Studios, a local film studio.

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