This is an update on the murder of my friend in the Atlanta Welaunee forest, Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, known to me as Manny. This is a decentralized newsletter motivated by compassion, altruism, grief, solidarity, the need for justice and the dedication to intersectional class struggle and the goals we share, namely the liberation of all beings. Please take the time and resources to share this by hand and electronically to everyone you can. I’m updating my previous statement with the self criticism that my first statement referred to Manny as ‘he’ and Manny had preferred they/them pronouns. These things seem small to those outside of the movement, but they matter and do a great deal to undermine patriarchy and respect the fact that minds are not born gendered, they are trained to reflect societal constructs over time. I’ll open this update with a quote from a Buddhist nun who’s work I study to define my own ethical framework and metaphysical practice as I strive to become a better person and practically contribute to the work of freeing everyone everywhere. This quote refers to the purpose of Buddhism and ethical activism. Then I’ll give a timeline leading up to and after Manny’s murder, concluding with articles and statements covering this injustice. This newsletter highlights the link between the liberation of all people, human AND non-human peoples. This means recognizing the personhood of animals and plants, even the plants humans must eat to survive, with respect, gratitude and mindfulness. I don’t believe we should eat animals but I can’t project bourgeois morality onto indigenous people and those living in poverty. But eating animals seems to me like humans who eat each other in survival situations. These ideas are ahead of their time and Manny and people like them will be remembered as wise forest dwelling sages who blaze the trail by setting the highest example of personal sacrifice and spiritual ideals. Manny is a martyr, a human who achieved Buddhahood in this lifetime.
“The purpose of these teachings is not to make our actions passive. Like, “Oh, well, somebody is shooting somebody, there’s a hunter coming on the property, they want to shoot the deer, they’re under the influence of their afflictions, that’s too bad but don’t step on the plants when you’re out there shooting the deer.” No, we go and we say, “Sorry, you can’t go hunting here.” But the idea is that when you interfere, when you intercede in a situation like that, your own mind isn’t angry and upset. That’s the thing, that’s the important thing.” -Venerable Thubten Chodron, Retreat From Afar 2023 Mailing #7, p.7
From Night Owls #3:
“Earth and animal liberation focused struggles continued to take major risks to defend land and life over the course of the fall season. Decentralized supporters of the Defend the Atlanta Forest campaign carried out at least ten known direct actions altogether against cop city, all of them daring and impressive. Meanwhile, we saw a return of Animal Liberation Front fur farm raids, which according to reports released 15,800 mink in total, destroyed vehicles and machinery at one farm, and ultimately forced the closure of Lion Farms, the largest mink exploiter in the U.$. and the target of one of these actions.
As the recent commentary “On Mink Liberation” notes, “Whilst (mink liberation actions) behave like any other animal liberation action- freeing animals from their place of abuse- they are understood easier as a sabotage action.” It’s heartwarming enough to see these individual lives freed from captivity and given a second chance, yet these actors also took care to aim at the mechanisms of the fur industry itself- an industry that’s entirely intertwined with and made possible by the domination of this territory by capitalism and colonization. The most recent mink raid’s communique makes this connection as well, ending “free all prisoners and give the land back.”
Our last column centered on the significance of our settler colonial context, not only for forest defense and other ecological struggles, but also with regard to how we position ourselves in relation to the land, life and collective survival- with the ultimate objective of destroying the settler colony and returning its territory to the continents original inhabitants. This autumn saw a heartening expansion of anti-colonial solidarity actions, from Washington and Oregon to Michigan and Philadelphia. Some of these actions happened in response to solidarity calls, one took place on the colonial holiday columbus day, one on thanksgiving, and another responded in part to the brutal consequences of the climate collapse in the global south. In discussing the need to take apart elements of colonial industry and infrastructure, the communiques attest to the ways in which destructive acts, when paired with anti-colonial methods, can help empower people to move towards self organization and action, nurture non-hierarchical relationships, and cultivate “communities of collective resistance and joyful militancy.”
Distribution of Night Owls is decentralized- don’t forget to print the column, bring it to infoshops, drop it in newspaper boxes, or just pass it to your friends.
9/25 Mountain Brook Alabama: The chairman and CEO of Brasfield & Gorrie, the general contractor behind Atlanta’s cop city, was visited at night by “fey (un)painter’s union”. The cars in his driveway were splashed with lacquer thinner, their windows etched, and the house was redecorated with pink paint.
9/28 Pittsburgh, PA: 3 police cruisers were burned outside of a police training facility.
10/05 Northern Michigan (occupied Anishinabewaki and Odawa territory) Machinery is torched inside of an Enbridge facility, signed by “the first of many” who’s statement read “i write this while the black snakes beneath my feet prepare once again to go under the mackinac straits, a sacred place where all of the great lakes converge, the great lakes which make up nearly 20% of the world’s fresh water. we must not let this happen.”
10/6 Atlanta, GA: Stake Center and City of Atlanta workers are ambushed while doing survey work near the Atlanta forest, leaving behind broken windows and slashed tires. A statement left read: “If you come to the woods to do something other than defend the forest, expect to have car problems.”
10/10 Atlanta, GA: In a statement left behind it was read that Georgia power work trucks and boom cranes “were descended upon with rocks & fire at the very edge of forest otherwise known as the old prison farm(…) May the Pines and Oaks and Fruit Trees you fell one day fall on & destroy your personal homes & vehicles!”
10/12 Philadelphia, PA: A colonizer statue was vandalized on columbus day. A statement left said “Fighting colonization is a way to nurture a less hierarchical relation with the land and whose that live on it.”
10/12 Longmeadow, MA: An individual unleashed a hive full of bees on sheriff’s deputies, some of them allergic to bee stings, as they tried to serve an eviction notice.
10/18 Atlanta, GA: Unknown assailants broke into the massive Shadowbox Studios movie complex involved in the destruction of the Atlanta forest and managed to partially burn down a structure used as a dressing room. A statement left read: “We don’t like movies. We don’t like screens. We are in the real world: Unseen to the hypno-dystopic civilization around us, somewhere among shadow and tree.”
10/18 Michigan: “Stop Camp Grayling” and “Stop All Cop Cities” are graffitied onto 3 police cars somewhere in Michigan.
11/5 Atlanta, GA: A surveillance camera at the old prison farm is cut down.
11/5 Thurston County, WA: Many trees are spiked in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en on a day of action, to discourage logging. “All of these industries are on the side of Coastal Gas Link and they are all our enemies. We feel the rage, creativity and determination of the people of Wet’suwet’en and Widzin Kwa, and must all act against every aspect of colonial industry which threatens the sovereignty and lifeblood of lands and waters. We hope this message serves as a warning to deter all upcoming timber sales in the Capitol Forest. If the trees are cut, we hope for maximum damage to the chainsaws and mills.”
11/5 Philadelphia, PA (Lenapehoking) On the Wet’suwet’en Day of Action a statement was left saying “a small group of Anti-colonial Anarchist settlers in Lenapehoking blocked a chokepoint of a high frequency railway.”
11/8 Massillon, OH: The ALF liberates 1,000 mink in memory of Berry Horne. Their statement said: “Check out finalnail.wordpress.com to find a list of animal torture and murder facilities.”
11/8 Atlanta, GA: Another tow truck is burned near the Atlanta Forest as it tries to clear the charred remains of a town truck burned back in July. “Meanwhile, those Americans that still believe in the ritual of voting were casting their ballots for the maintenance of one or the other version of the status quo. They think of this as freedom, as though the choice between 100 brands of cereal were the same as choosing how to live. We chose another route. We chose to defend a territory that has been claimed by the people, for the people- where the police do not dare to go because they have seen what happens to enemy vehicles. We elected a raging fire beneath a full moon!”
11/9 Michigan The ALF liberates 800 more mink from Pipkorn Farm.
11/11 Atlanta, GA: An excavator belonging to Norfolk Southern adjacent to the Weleaunee Forest is “decommissioned by fire” according to a statement they left. Norfolk Southern is a supporter of cop city.
11/15 Hoaglin Township, OH: 10,000 mink are released from Lion Farms; graffiti is left at the scene reading “(A)LF” and “We’ll be back.”
11/19 Atlanta, GA The Atlanta police department’s shooting range inside the Welaunee forest is attacked on several fronts: trees are felled with a a chainsaw to block access to the road, and one tree destroyed the power lines providing electricity to the range. The cameras are then destroyed with fire and hammers. A statement left read “We took this action for the dead- for Rayshard Brooks and every person killed by the Atlanta police. For every murdered revolutionary, for the Muskogee who were forced from this land, for every enslaved person who lived and died on the plantation here, for every prisoner killed by guards at the old prison farm and buried in unmarked graves in the forest. This forest is theirs and we will not allow the police to desecrate it with their presence.”
11/20 Portland, OR: Most buildings at the Adidas North American HQ were smashed up several hours before the opening of the 2022 World Cup. A statement left read “We shattered windows, broke doors and covered walls with paint across the corporate campus including office buildings, the gym and cafe. Adidas is one of FIFA’s primary long term partners, and a main sponsor of the World Cup in Qatar this year. The history of the world cup is one of death and displacement.”
11/21 Milwaukee, OR: A KONE service truck was set ablaze in solidarity with Alfredo Cospito, an anarchist prisoner in Italy on indefinite hunger strike against his transfer to the 41 Bis regime. A statement left read “The multinational corporation KONE, a manufacturer of elevators, escalators and door systems, has contracts with prisons and military facilities worldwide, including the Aviano NATO Air Base in Northeastern Italy through their subsidiary KONE SPA.”
11/22 Asheboro, NC: A confederate monument outside of Randolph County courthouse was vandalized with “derogatory words about the United $tates.”
11/24 Portland, OR: In the early morning hours of “thanksgiving” some anarchists vandalized a colonial statue. Chunks were broken off, it was doused in red paint, and the plaque was ripped off and dumped in the river. It was redecorated with “Land Back” and other slogans.
11/27 Plainwell, Michigan: Vandals cause over $75,000 in damage to Michigan Gold Course. The club’s head said “you’re better off putting out of a ditch on the side of the road than you are being able to putt on our greens right now.”
11/30 Atlanta, GA: A surveillance camera is destroyed by “some forest creatures” near the Welaunee forest in solidarity with opposing the expansion of Camp Grayling, a National Guard training facility. Flock Security cameras is an investor in both Camp Grayling and the cop city project.
12/11 Wayland, Michigan: 4,000 mink are liberated from Scholten Farms using four ramps built with the farm’s materials. The mink killing machine, pvc water pipes, and all 10 vehicles on the property were sabotaged using bleach, water, and sand in their gas tanks and oil reservoirs.
12/13 New York, NY: A massive fire broke out at an NYPD evidence warehouse in Brooklyn, likely destroying mountains of criminal evidence- including DNA records- stretching back decades.
12/13 Atlanta, GA: A noise demo was held at DeKalb county jail in solidarity with 5 people arrested on the same day during a raid of the Atlanta forest. A statement read: “15 minutes in, one rowdy prisoner was spotted lighting a fire outside their cell windows, which appeared to have been smashed out for the occasion. Peering through binoculars, one noise maker noticed an arm waving a sheet out of a 3rd story window that was also smashed.”
12/16 San Francisco, CA: 5 windows and an ATM were smashed at Wells Fargo in retribution for the arrest of 5 Atlanta forest defenders on “domestic terrorism” charges. A statement left read: “Mitch Graul, a Lead Business Execution Consultant at Wells Fargo, sits on the Board of Trustees of the Atlanta Police Foundation … The bones in the land demand a reckoning. Anyone who supports cop city is a target everywhere. Solidarity means attack!”
12/16 Oakland, CA: The offices of CEL, owned by Atlas Technical Consultants and involved in the cop city project in Atlanta, had their windows broken and locks glued in what a statement released described “as part of a battle over what’s left of the living world … to those on our side of the barricade: beware of the politicians in our midst, not just those concerned with electoral victory but also those who want to use you as pawns in THEIR revolution. Understand your values and why you choose to take action. Political strategy is not a substitute for genuine connection to yourself, each other, and what’s left of the living world. Against the pig world and its dead future of machines, surveillance and alienation! Against politics! In solidarity with all those arrested! For all the forests and our friends! Long live anarchy!”
12/17 Novi, Michigan: An Atlas office loses its windows in solidarity with forest defenders in Atlanta, and paint is poured at the doorstep.
12/18 Crawford County, Michigan: More than 100 trees are spiked around the proposed Camp Grayling expansion area.
12/21 Manhattan, NY: The apartment building of a vice president of AltaVista, a part of the Atlas Technical Consultants, is redecorated in solidarity with the 6 arrested Welaunee forest defenders. A statement read “We reject this world order of prisons and pigs and dead forests, we reject their false peace, we reject the state in its entirety!”
(This is a continuation of Night Owls #3)
“It’s not about bringing a mean company to better intentions, of forcing it to change its bad habits via punitive measures, not of pressuring an institution to change its mind… when we’re talking about, for example, companies that build prisons, high speed train lines, airports, let’s refuse all forms of communication (even the radical ones) with the enemy; let’s refuse all forms of reformism. Better still: we don’t want to spread the logic of reformism, we want to destroy it. The goal is, then, not to convince (by way of damage, material or monetary); the goal is to sabotage and attack the entirety of the project on all terrains. Attack- not to convince, but because we are convinced we don’t want this project. Attacking, not to punish, but to make life harder for the enemy. From the construction companies to the security coordinators and engineers; from the civilian participants to the banks who finance the project.
This column is especially interested in actions that inspire new conceptions of anarchist’s role and potential impact, in which tactics are innovated through creativity and experimentation. In a recent action against a police shooting range in Atlanta’s Welaunee forest, some “chainsaw wielding militants” knocked out the power line feeding the range before going on to destroy the cameras. This action showed creativity both in its choice of target and the tactics used, in an intelligent and effective blow to the facility’s ability to operate. It demonstrates a shift in focus from the mere symbolic facades of power and reminds us that we are not just against cop city, but the entire institution of policing.
Privileging tactical preferences over shared ethics, goals, and methods can be flimsy ground for collaboration. For example, people who use high risk tactics but are motivated by a desire to impact public opinion can make unreliable and even dangerous co-conspirators. Many of those who snitched in the Green Scare “revered public opinion about an environmental movement rather than aiming to destroy anti-environmental forces.” More recently, two individuals confessed to having attacked pipelines in a statement to the media, demonstrating a similar desire to impact public opinion- one later became a cooperating witness while the other, who stayed solid, regretted publishing her identity. People driven by such motivations are liable to change their minds as the tides of “public opinion” inevitably change. Understanding one’s goals and motivation for acting is indispensable, not only for deciding who to take risks with, but also for deciding what to target and how.
This does not mean that you have to be an anarchist to use direct action or to be trustworthy. We are less invested in more people calling themselves anarchists than in the spreading of practices of self organization and conflict with authority, which were around long before anarchists were named. Our understanding of anarchist methods can grow and deepen by learning from other self organized strategies and individuals who sabotage domination.
In compiling this column’s list of actions across the so-called United $tates, we include actions that were claimed by communique as well as those that were not, with the assumption that there are lessons to be learned from both. The advantages and disadvantages of writing communiques have often been the subject of heated debate among anarchists. Many actions speak for themselves and don’t have to be claimed to be understood or to significantly disrupt systems of domination. On the other hand actions that are not claimed may be harder to find on the internet and so feature less prominently in counter-information projects (including this one), though such websites are rarely engaged with by anyone who’s not themselves an anarchist. In putting together this column, we consider the challenge of communicating outside of anarchist space- which depends on our newspapers, magazines, social centers, and physical places of encounter in this struggle.
The torching of 3 police cars in Pittsburgh this fall was not accompanied by communique but the burning shell of the cruisers spoke for themselves and meaning could not be clearer: Fuck the police. We feel it’s important not to speculate about whether this of other actions were carried out by anarchists or not, since the potential to aid the police in their investigation exists. Whatever the motivations of the anonymous one(s) who burned the cars, this action can resonate with anyone who has their own reason to take action against the police.
On the other hand, communiques can also have their own very important place, and all the better when that place is not just on the internet! Although we chose this medium for our column in the interest of reaching a wider audience we also include a zine version and posters so as to take ideas and actions off the screen, with its inherent alien nature, and spread them through our real world encounters.
This season’s posters feature a communique from occupied Anishinabewaki and Odawa territory (northern Michigan) which claims the arson of heavy machinery at an Enfield facility. The fight against pipelines and the oil economy is not restricted to occupations against construction and is not defeated after the go into the ground. The communique reminds us that the oil economy, along with the devastation it causes, is all around us, and that it’s possible to fight back.”
The following is a statement from Atlanta Community Press Collective:
1/19/23- “Justice For Tort
A dedication for Tortuguita, an anarchist who was shot and killed by police while defending the Weelaunee forest in Atlanta, GA on January 18th.
We are devastated by the loss of our friend who was killed by the police. Tortuguita was a kind, passionate and loving person, cherished by their community.
They spent their time between Atlanta, defending the forest from destruction and coordinating mutual aid for the movement, and Florida, where they helped build housing in low-income communities hit hardest by the hurricane (Ian). They were a trained medic, a loving partner, a dear friend, a brave soul, and so much more. In Tort’s name, we continue to fight to protect the forest and stop cop city with love, rage, and a commitment to each other’s safety and well-being.
Many people have reached out with memories and accounts of Tortuguita. They are remembered and cherished by many friends, loved one, and people who they supported with mutual aid.
“They loved all life and people- especially their qtpoc community- deeply.”
“Tortuguita was a very kind person. They were always willing to help and take care of people in need around them, especially the qtbipoc community. They were always attentive to others needs and offer always the best of them. Truly a warrior for the forest and the people! I miss them so much.”
We don’t know what happened yesterday, but we know that the police killed them while they were defending the forest.
Please reach out with accounts of Tortuguita to honor their memory to RememberTort@protonmail.com”
I received this message from Daniel McGowan:
“So, I heard on The Final Straw that the guy who the Atlanta police killed (Manuel Teran aka Tortuguita) was in Florida and used to come to your court dates and knew Eric. Wow, that is some horrible small world news. I mean, fuck. I was so sorry to hear the news. It’s so tragic and enraging. I am going to include a very good story about this and the info from The Final Straw. Hang in there.”
“Voices in Struggle: Remembering Tortuguita
This week on The Final Straw, words from a friend of Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, the forest defender killed by law enforcement on January 18th outside of Atlanta, Ga. First up, we caught up with Eric Champaign of Tallahassee, FL, about his friend Manny, aka Tortuguita, or Little Turtle. Manuel Teran was shot and killed by law enforcement during an early morning raid of the forest encampment to defend the Welaunee aka Atlanta Forest and to stop cop city on Wednesday January 18th, 2023. Law enforcement CLAIMED in the media that they responded to shots fired and the wounding of an officer by killing the shooter, but at the time of this release the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has not yet produced a weapon or bodycam footage of the clash. (Update, Georgia Bureau of Investigation CLAIMS they found a gun and ballistics match the bullet in the pelvis of the cop). The killing of Tortuguita has sparked outrage, calls for independent investigation, vigils and calls for renewed and dispersed activity. Word is that another 6 people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism during the raid. Check out our chat with a member of Atlanta Anti-Repression Committee for some context and links to groups fighting back in the courts. There’s a fundraiser for Tortuguita’s family at GoFundMe.”
I’ll remind the reader that drop weapons are used daily to justify murders by U.$. police and soldiers.
“Little Turtle’s War by David Peisner
The shooting death of a protestor at the hands of police feels like both an inevitable outcome of this long battle over Atlanta’s South River Forest and a completely preventable tragedy.
I didn’t know Manuel Teran as Manuel Teran. To me, Manuel was Tortuguita. Like pretty much all the forest defenders I met while reporting on the protest movement that has emerged in opposition to the city’s plan to build a police training facility in a forest in south Atlanta, Teran went by a forest name in order to maintain anonymity. At one point, Teran- who preferred they/them pronouns but was not particularly concerned when an early draft of my story, “The Forest For the Trees” failed to use them- wanted me to refer to them in the story as “(Redacted)”, mostly, it seemed, because they thought it was funny.
But “Tortuguita”, as Teran explained the first time we met, was not just a cute name chosen at random. Spanish for “Little Turtle”, it was a nod to the colonial era indigenous military commander of the same name who led native American forces to one of their most decisive victories against the then nascent U.$. Army in 1791. Teran was reluctant to publicize this backstory because, as they told me, “That does not make us look like peaceful protestors. We are very peaceful people, I promise.”
“Teran was shot and killed on the morning of January 18, in what law enforcement officials described as a firefight during which a Georgia state trooper also sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen. As of January 19 the trooper is in stable condition. According to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Michael Register, Teran, who was 26, opened fire “without warning” at law enforcement officers and was then shot in self defense.”
(I’d like to remind the reader that U.$. police and soldiers daily use drop weapons to cover up murder of civilians. The man who raised me, Glenn Baker, was a Palm Beach County sheriff deputy, a combat veteran of the Panama occupation as a mortarman, National Guard, Coast Guard, a lifelong cop, and he was the first person to explain to me the police policy of keeping and planting drop weapons on the still warm bodies of dead civilians. When I was in the U.$. army airborne infantry, in the 82nd Airborne, 2/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, Lt. Bradley trained us to keep drop weapons in the humvees as “standard operating procedure for, not if, but when we kill civilians.” The common practice was to keep a camera handy and to take a picture of the dead civilians with the drop weapons, to write up the incident report to say that they had been an enemy combatant, a terrorist, and that the soldier acted in self defense. This would result in investiations into the murdered civilian’s family and friends and more murders. They even used the same weapon multiple times and made up fake serial numbers because no one would look into these details lest they be labeled as unpatriotic. Many Amerikkkan police are former soldiers pipelined directly into law enforcement from the military and they treat civilians exactly like they treat people overseas. A large percentage of police and soldier deaths, especially in the Rangers, are due to friendly fire, self inflicted wounds and accidental discharges. Anything to avoid prison. Just ask Pat Tillman. Oh wait, you can’t, because his Ranger buddies shot him and tried to cover it up. Now back to David Peisner’s article. -Dan)
“In the time since my story was posted last month, the situation in the South River Forest has deteriorated markedly. There were massive raids by law enforcement in mid-December that attempted to clear all of the forest defenders off the land in Intrenchment Creek Park and across the creek, on the site where the city intends to build the training facility for police and firefighters. The police reportedly used tear gas, pepper balls, and rubber bullets to help dislodge activists from tree sits. I visited the forest immediately after these raids, and the encampments had been trashed, structures built by forest defenders had been dismantled, and a community garden had been trampled. Most of the activists had fled the forest, though several were arrested on a host of charges, including, most controversially, domestic terrorism. When I was walking through the forest, I saw a few masked forest defenders who’d surreptitiously returned to the site, but the community they’d built over the previous year was largely in shambles.
In the weeks that followed, construction vehicles tore up the concrete bike and walking path that wove through Intrenchment Creek Park, bulldozed the parking lot, destroyed the gazebo, and pulled down a number of trees. Through all the tumult, there were continued efforts by activists to return to the forest, and a series of escalating confrontations with law enforcement, up to and including the one that took Teran’s life and injured the state trooper.
At the moment, I have no real information about the series of events that morning that led to Teran’s death. It is certainly possible that it happened exactly as law enforcement has described it, though it’s worth noting that in past killings by police officers- including that of George Floyd- the initial narratives provided by officials have proved to be erroneous. Some may point to the origin of Teran’s forest name as evidence of their violent intent, and I suppose that could be true, but it would not square with the person I got to know over the past 6 months.
Of the 40 or so forest defenders I met and spoke with during my reporting, I probably spent more time talking to Teran than anyone else. I did so not because they were a great source, but because they were great company: curious, engaging, earnest, educated, self-aware, well-read, and very funny. They loved to talk, to connect, to debate, and did so joyfully and passionately, without malice.
Teran had first come to the forest months before we met. “I fell in love with the woods and I also fell in love with the community.” The first time we spoke, they admitted that they mostly agreed to talk to me because it was raining and there wasn’t much else to do. “I was bored,” Teran said with a shrug. We talked about politics, about community building, about books, about music, about the environment, about education, about kids. Teran also spoke passionately and repeatedly about the moral and strategic virtues of nonviolent resistance.
“The right kind of resistance is peaceful, because that’s where we win,” they told me. “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.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about Teran’s commitment to nonviolence today. Law enforcement and other critics of the forest defenders have continually labeled the movement as “violent”, pointing to multiple acts of arson and property destruction as evidence. There were also incidences of throwing rocks, bottles, and- on one occasion- two largely ineffective Molotov cocktails in the direction of police. Forest defenders will point out that their movement is autonomous and decentralized, meaning that no one is giving orders or laying down rules, so there is no collective responsibility for any individual’s actions. That may be true on a theoretical basis, but in reality few people outside of the forest defenders and their ardent supporters are making that distinction. That said, until the incident that killed Teran and wounded the trooper, none of the so-called violent acts committed by the forest defenders led to any real injuries that I’m aware of. Some may consider property destruction in and of itself to be violent, but there’s been a real blurring of the lines between that looser definition of violence and the one that is aimed at actual people.
Is it possible that Teran was lying to me about their allegiance to peaceful protest? Could they just have been telling me what they thought I wanted to hear or what would look good in print? Of course, that could be true. Is it possible that in the time since we had those conversations- time during which Teran witnessed the increasing destruction of the forest- they’d been radicalized and changed their mind about violence? Sure, that’s also a possibility. But I personally saw no evidence of it.
“I’m not an adrenaline junkie,” they told me. “I don’t crave conflict. I’m out here because I love the forest. I love living in the woods. Being a forest hobo is pretty chill. Some folks probably have flashpoint moments where it’s like ‘Oh, yes, the truck is being lit on fire!’ But not me. I love it when everything is calm.”
Teran struck me as a strategic thinker, and everything they told me about the utility of violence in this scenario remains true to this day. The forest defenders are not going to be successful trying to match the state’s capacity for violence. They simply aren’t. So if, in fact, the law enforcement narrative is true and Teran shot at police first, I find it troubling on so many levels, but I can only understand it as either a nihilistic act of desperation, or some sort of misguided effort to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the cause. We’d spoken about how the optics of a protestor’s death could be fatally damaging for those who want the police training center built. As I wrote in the original story, “An activist protesting police violence being killed by police is pretty on the nose.”
In a lot of ways, the shooting feels like it was the inevitable climax of an escalating confrontation. But it wasn’t. This really did NOT need to happen. There were so many opportunities for de-escalation that weren’t taken, so many ways this could have been avoided. During my reporting of this story, I had multiple conversations with people on all sides of this debate about the danger of something like this happening. No one wanted it. Yet here we are. Two people have been shot. one of them is dead. And that’s a tragedy.
On some level, Teran knew the risks they were taking and was smart enough to be frightened. “Am I scared of the state?” they said. “Pretty silly not to be. I’m a brown person. I might be killed by the police for existing in certain spaces.” To cope with that fear, Teran leaned on a quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune: “Fear is the mind killer.” “That’s a quote I think about often. I am scared, but you can’t let the fear stop you from doing things, from living, from existing, from resisting.”
It’s hard not to read those words with a dark, fatalistic hue now, but when they were said, the weather was warmer, the mood was lighter, and these deadly serious question felt largely academic. Now they’re not.
So what happens next? There will hopefully be a thorough investigation. More information about what happened down in the forest will come out. But what does this mean for the police training center, for Intrenchment Creek Park, for the larger vision of the South River Forest? In one conversation we had while sitting in the gazebo several months ago, Teran gamed out hypothetical scenarios that feel downright prophetic in retrospect.
“They could come in and completely destroy the place, raze it, arrest everybody that they find, kill anybody who resists arrest- they could do that, and then days later there would be a shitload of people back here. For every head they cut off, there would be more who would come back to avenge the arrested, to avenge the…” Teran stopped before finishing that last thought and started again. “What I’m saying is, if they do a huge crackdown and completely try to crush the movement, they’ll succeed at hurting some people, they’ll succeed at destroying some infrastructure, but they’re not going to succeed at stopping the movement. That’s just going to strengthen the movement. It will draw a lot of attention to the movement. If enough people decide to do this with nonviolent action, you can overwhelm the infrastructure of the state. That’s something they fear more than violence in the streets. Because violence in the streets, they’ll win. They have the guns for it. We don’t.”
The Native American leader Little Turtle who inspired Teran’s pseudonym lived long enough to die of old age at his son-in-law’s house. Tortuguita didn’t get that chance, and even though I only knew them for a short time, even though I never even knew their real name, that makes me sad. It’s a fucking cliche to say that someone died fighting for something they believed in, but Teran certainly did that even if I’d rather it hadn’t happened. As an eco-anarchist and a hardcore abolitionist, they knew the scope of the fight they’d taken on.
“The abolitionist mission isn’t done until every prison is empty,” Teran told me. “When there are no more cops, when the land had been given back,that’s when it’s over.” I must’ve shaken my head a little at the grandiosity of this statement because Teran immediately broke into a sheepish smile. “I don’t expect to live to see that day, necessarily. I mean, hope so. But I smoke.”
“‘Assassinated in Cold Blood’: activist killed protesting Georgia’s cop city.
1/21/23 by Timothy Pratt (The Guardian)
Belkis Teran spoke with her child, Manuel, nearly every day by WhatsApp from her home in Panama City, Panama. She also had names and numbers for some of Manuel’s friends, in case she didn’t hear from the 26-year-old who was protesting cop city, a planned gigantic training facility being built in a wooded area near Atlanta, GA.
So by midweek, when she hadn’t received a message from Atlanta since Monday, she began to worry. Thursday around noon, a friend of Manuel’s- whose chosen name was Tortuguita, or Little Turtle- messaged her with condolences. “I’m so sorry,” they wrote. “For what?” she asked.
Teran wound up discovering that on Wednesday around 9:04 am, an as-yet unnamed officer or officers had shot and killed her son. The shooting occurred in an operation involving dozens of officers from Atlanta police, Dekalb county police, Georgia state patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.
(Again, I’d like to remind the reader that drop weapons and friendly fire are standard operating procedures in all U$ police and military units. Don’t take my word for it, Google it. There is a video on YouTube of a marine who breaks down and describes this policy in detail. If there are cops and soldiers in your family, just ask them casually and insist that they be honest with you. Behind closed doors cops and soldiers are more likely to tell the truth.)
The killing has stunned and shocked not only Tortuguita’s family and friends, but also the environmental and social justice movement in Georgia and across the United $tates. Circumstances surrounding the incident are still unclear and there are demands for a thorough investigation into the killing and how it could have happened.
The police apparently found Manuel in a tent in the South River forest south-east of Atlanta, taking part in a protest now in its second year, against plans to build a $90m police and fire department training facility on the land and, separately, a film studio.
Officials say Manuel shot first at a state trooper “without warning” and an officer or officers returned fire, but they have produced no evidence for the claim. The trooper was described as stable and in hospital Thursday.
The shooting is “unprecedented” in the history of U$ environmental activism, according to experts.
The GBI, which operate under Republican governor Brian Kemp’s orders, has released scant information and on Thursday night told The Guardian no body-cam footage of the shooting exists. At least a half-dozen other protestors who were in the forest at the time have communicated to other activists that one, single series of shots could be heard. They believe the state trooper could have been shot by another officer, or by his own firearm.
Meanwhile both Teran and local activists are looking into legal action, and Manuel’s mother told The Guardian: “I will go to the U$ to defend Manuel’s memory…. I’m convinced that he was assassinated in cold blood.”
The incident was the latest in a ramping up of law enforcement raids on the forest in recent months.
Protests had began in late 2021, after the then Atlanta Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, announced plans for the training center. The forest had been named in city plans four years earlier as a key part of efforts to maintain Atlanta’s renowned tree canopy as a buffer against global warming, and to create what would have been the metro area’s largest park.
Most of the residents in neighborhoods around the forest are Black and municipal planning has neglected the area for decades. The plans to preserve the forest and make it a historic public amenity were adopted in 2017 as part of Atlanta’s city charter, or constitution. But the Atlanta city council wound up approving the training center anyway, and a movement to “Stop cop city” began in response.
A series of editorials and news stories lambasting the activists began in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the area’s largest daily paper. At least a dozen articles in the last year-plus failed to mention that Alex Taylor, CEO of the paper’s owner, Cox Enterprises, was also raising funds on behalf of the Atlanta police foundation, the main agency behind the training center.
At some point, Kemp and other civic leader began referring to the protestors as “terrorists”, in response to acts of vandalism such as burning construction vehicles or spray painting corporate offices linked to the project.
In an interview with this reporter last fall, Tortuguita was discussing how some Muscogee (Creek) people interested in protecting the forest as well felt that leaving a burnt vehicle at one of its entrances was not a good idea, and was an alienating presence in nature. The activist seemed understanding of both side and critical of violence.
“Some of us (forest defenders) are rowdy gringos,” Tortuguita said. “They’re just against the state. Still, I don’t know how you can connect to anything if that’s your entire political analysis.”
Police raids on the forest intensified until 12/14/22, when a half-dozen “forest defenders” were arrested and charged with “domestic terrorism” under state law- another unprecedented development in U$ environmental activism, said Lauren Regan, founder of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, who has a quarter century’s experience defending environmental protestors charged with federal terrorism sentencing enhancements and others.
Seven more activists were arrested and received the same charges the day Manuel was killed.
Regan and Keith Woodhouse, professor of history at Northwestern University and Author of The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism, both said there has never been a case where law enforcement shot and killed an environmental activists engaged in an attempt to protect a forest from being razed and developed.
“Killings of environmental activists by the state are depressingly common in other countries, like Brazil, Honduras, Nigeria,” said Woodhouse. “But this has never happened in the U$.”
Manuel’s older brother, Daniel Esteban Paez, found himself in the middle of this unfortunate historical moment Thursday. “They killed my sibling,” he said on answering the phone. “I’m in a whole new world now.”
Paez, 31, was the only family member to speak extensively with GBI officials, after calling them Thursday in an attempt to get answer about what had happened. No one representing Georgia law enforcement had reached out to Belkis by Thursday afternoon. “I quickly found out, they’re not investigating the death of Manuel- they’re investigating Manuel,” Paez said.
A navy veteran, Paez said the GBI official asked him such questions as “Does Manuel often carry weapons?” and “Has Manuel done protesting in the past?”
The family is Venezuelan in origin, but now lives in the U$ and Panama, Paez said. Less than 24 hours into discovering the death of his sibling, Paez also said he “had no idea Manuel was so well regarded and loved by so many.” He was referring to events and messages ranging from an Atlanta candlelight vigil Wednesday night to messages of solidarity being sent on social media from across the U$ and world.
Belkis Teran, meanwhile, is trying to get an emergency appointment at the U$ Embassy in Panama to renew her tourist visa, which expired in November. “I’m going to clear Manuel’s name. They killed him… like they tear down trees in the forest- a forest Manuel loved with passion.”
On 1/20/23 I released the following statement. This is an updated version with correct pronouns.
“I just learned today that my friend Manny was murdered by cops in Atlanta Forest.
I send my love, sympathetic rage and condolences to everyone who knew Manny and loves them. I send their parents all my love, outrage, admiration and respect for raising this person who became a hero who put into practice the values which make human life meaningful. We need to come together as a community to take care of their family from now on. In Rojava the families of the martyrs are shown special reverence and provided for, for the rest of their lives. As a community we need to uphold this revolutionary practice of gratitude and respect, which even this corrupt and murderous government fails to show the fallen of its own in any meaningful way. I have spent time with the parents of martyrs in Rojava and if Manny’s parents are willing I will spend time with them one day, and try, unsuccessfully, to materially repay them for their contribution to the betterment of the world in the way they raised Manny. But we owe them a debt that can never be repaid, because the life of a single martyr like Manny is worth more than all the wealth in the world combined.
I won’t pretend that I knew Manny well, but I will tell you what I do know. I know that Manny heard about me, my case and what the cops and feds did to me, and that Manny was moved to tears for my sake, and came to my trial. This means a lot to me. We live in a world where less than 2% of the world’s water is drinkable and Manny shed precious tears for my sake. Now it’s my turn to do the same. While I’ve been in prison Manny sent me money, wrote to me and we spoke on the phone. These simple gestures mean the world to political prisoners and to me personally. Manny completed higher education at Florida State University, which is more than I can claim to have accomplished. They studied a field which explored compassionate treatment for traumatized peoples. This speaks to the high quality of their character. I am told they were a very compassionate person who felt deeply moved to take altruistic action to defend people, plants and animals from fascist death squads. They put themselves between those killers and what remains of the living world, and they lived and died defending that worthy cause. This is a hero’s death. This is what it means to give your life for a cause and for those who are precious to you. Manny is a martyr of this revolutionary struggle for the liberation of all beings. 10,000 Manny’s will take their place, people will name their children after them, dedicate their activism to their memory and organizations bearing their name will liberate more beings than we can measure. I will personally make sure of this the rest of my life. Please send me everything you can about Manny’s life and about this tragic murder, including their picture.
We must remember Manny. We must say their name, hang up their picture in homes all over the world, and spread their memory far and wide on every platform available. In Rojava when a friend is martyred by the enemy tens of thousands of people line the roads from he hospital morgue to the burial ground and chant their names, carry their pictures and celebrate the life and memories of the martyred friend, with gratitude and determination to make sure their sacrifice is not forgotten, not in vain. They chant SHEHEED NEMARIN- MARTYRS NEVER DIE! Manny lives on in our works, in our hearts and in the fire in our eyes. The blood of the martyrs cries out from the soil of the Atlanta Forest.
Remember Manny. Say their name. Their name was Manny.
Remember Manny! Say their Name! Their name was Manny!
REMEMBER MANNY! SAY THEIR NAME! THEIR NAME WAS MANNY!”
The following is a statement released by The Atlanta Solidarity Fund.
“Statement on the repression of the Stop Cop City Movement
Over the last 2 years, Atlanta has spoken out against the proposed cop city training facility and the destruction of Atlanta’s forests. During this time we have seen a dangerous escalation of protest suppression and police aggression against protestors: from the first arrests of eleven peaceful protestors snatched off the sidewalk during the City Council vote approving cop city, to the continued raids against tree sitters camped out in public parks, to the mass arrest of twenty non-violent protestors ad journalists in Inman Park. The Atlanta Solidarity Fund has supported over 60 people arrested for protesting the proposed cop city development, and we are committed to supporting all protestors arrested for standing up for their beliefs and fighting for a more just world.
From the beginning, the Atlanta Police department has aggressively arrested and persecuted protestors in this movement. Repression has increased dramatically over the last few months, as local government moves to push the cop city development forward despite all public opposition. The divisive and violent rhetoric of labeling environmental and radical justice protestors as “domestic terrorists” is a dangerous precedent, designed to stifle public opposition and scare anyone concerned about police militarization and climate change away from protesting. This is the anti-democratic “chilling effect” in action: creating a political climate where citizens are too scared to exercise their right to speak up against injustice, to organize, and to take action.
This alarming escalation of violence and repression against political speech and activity has been bolstered at the state level by governor Brian Kemp, who is exerting tremendous pressure on city and county governments to clamp down on opposition to the cop city project. In practical terms, this means egregious bail amounts for protestors, trumped up charges, and now the death of an activist. The state is trying to set an alarming precedent. If they are successful, protestors across the country could be facing similar speech chilling “domestic terrorism” charges. We must strongly reject this extreme level of repression here and now, before it becomes the norm for activists in every movement.
On Saturday, January 21st, 6 people were arrested after protests in response to the death of Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran.
“We have reason to believe these (6) activists were arrested at random during the march. All 6 face the same blanket charges. They are being held responsible for committing the same crime by virtue of simply being present at a protest where property damage occurred. We expect these charges will not hold up in court, and we are committed to helping these individual fight their cases all the way through the legal process.
At a bail hearing on Monday, January 23rd, bail was denied for four of these arrestees in an effort to keep protestors off the streets. Two of the arrestees were granted bond at the unprecedented cost of $355,000 each, along with onerous bail condition including ankle monitors and curfews. These are punitive measure intended to isolate activists and drain their emotional and financial resources, and an attempt to use the legal process to punish activists with the full knowledge that these charges stand little change of conviction at trial.
The Atlanta Solidarity Fund remains committed to supporting all protestors arrested for standing up for social justice, and we need your help to continue doing what we do best: supporting activists with bail and legal counsel for as long as necessary. We are also supporting civil litigation against unjust arrests and police violence, including an independent investigation into the death of Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran.
The Atlanta Solidarity Fund, the arrested protestors, and all other future protestors targeted for political activity in Atlanta need your help. Please host fundraisers, reach out to your networks, and donate to the Atlanta Solidarity fund. We especially encourage you to consider becoming a recurring donor. Solidarity means all of us supporting each other for the long haul: Until we are all free!”
When I receive updates I’ll continue this newsletter. The final article I’ll add for now is Natasha Lennard’s column from The Intercept.
“The Crackdown on Cop City Protestors Is So Brutal Because of the Movement’s Success.
One protestor was killed by police, 20 were charged under a “domestic terrorism” law, and Georgia’s governor gave himself broad “emergency” powers.
The movement to stop the construction of a $90 million police training center atop vast acres of Atlanta forest has been extraordinarily successful over the last year. With little national fanfare, Defend the Atlanta Forest/Stop Cop City activists nimbly deployed a range of tactics: encampments, tree-sits, peaceful protest marches, carefully targeted property damage, local community events, investigative research, and, at times, direct confrontation with police forces attempting to evict protestors from the forest. The proposed militarized training compound known as cop city has thus far been held at bay.
The Atlanta based movement should be seen as an example of rare staying power, thoughtful strategizing, and the crucial articulation of environmentalist politics situated in anti-racist, Indigenous, and abolitionist struggle. Unsurprisingly however, significant national attention has only been drawn to the forest defenders in the last week thanks to the extreme law enforcement repression they are now facing.
A forest defender was killed by police last Wednesday, and a total of 19 protestors now face capricious and ungrounded domestic terror charges for their involvement in the movement, a rare deployment of a state domestic terror statute, threatening to exhaust and crush a resilient and developing movement.
On Thursday, Georgia’s republican gov. Brian Kemp announced a “state of emergency” in response to the protests in downtown Atlanta in the week following the killing of the protestor. The executive order grants the governor’s office extensive and preemptive powers, including the ability to call on as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to quell protests at any moment.
“This is an unprecedented level of repression,” said Marlon Kautz, 38, an Atlanta based organizer with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provides bail funds and legal support to protestors who are targeted for involvement in social movements, including against cop city.
“At this point the police seem to be charging every protestor they arrest with “domestic terrorism” regardless of the circumstances,” he said. “The other pattern we’ve noticed is they are charging everyone arrested on a given day with all crimes which happened that day.”
Kautz told me, by way of example, that during a protest in which a police car was burned, all arrestees from the day now face arson charges. “Needless to say, the law doesn’t work this way, so we interpret this as a strategy of blatant malicious prosecution.”
The Defend the Atlanta Forest movement endeavors to combine the tactics of, and to learn from, previous struggles, including the 2016 encampments at Standing Rock and the 2020 George Floyd Uprisings, while experimenting with novel resistance compositions. The escalatory response from the police and prosecutors, on the other hand, reveals a new and troubling combination of counterinsurgent strategies.
The forest defenders have already faced months of aggressive policing and intimidation, which escalated into deadly violence during a multiagency raid last Wednesday. Police shot and killed 26 year old Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran. The authorities claim that Tortuguita shot at them first, wounding an officer, a narrative fiercely challenged by fellow activists and family members. Protests and vigils sprung up nationwide demanding “justice for Tort,” while mainstream organizations, including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, alongside left wing Reps. Cori Bush, D-MO., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., condemned the police’s violence and called for an independent investigation into the activist’s killing. Up until this point, they had said little about the year-plus long struggle against cop city.
As forest defenders mourn and seek justice for their fallen friend, the movement must also fight a barrage of excessive criminal charges, most notably state domestic terrorism charges carrying a possible 35 years in prison.
“Since December, the police have repeatedly stormed the forest with military grade weapons, pointed assault rifles at protestors, fired chemical weapons at tree sitters, and used chainsaws in an attempt to dismantle treehouses with tree sitters still in them,” said Elias, a 24 year old Atlanta based student in the movement, who asked to withhold his full name for fear of police harassment. “Their decision to create a dangerous, volatile, chaotic situation now has led to the murder of our friend Tortuguita.”
Elias told me “the police are trying to justify their negligence by charging people with domestic terrorism. However, nothing these protestors have done even remotely resembles domestic terrorism. The police are trying to redefine terrorism to mean ‘sitting in a treehouse’ or ‘breaking windows’.”
The terror charges, all handed down within the last two months, were not from nowhere. Political and business interests behind cop city have been pushing related rhetoric for well over a year. Communications records uncovered by activists between cop city supporters, local self identifying ‘stakeholders’, business owners, council members, and Atlanta law enforcement officials show that these parties have been calling the protestors “eco-terrorists” since at least April.
Though no one has yet been convicted on these bogus terror charges, Kemp, the governor, has readily used the term ‘domestic terrorists’ to describe the arrestees. Kemp has also invoked the tired trope of “outside agitators” to delegitimize an Atlanta based movement, which has made a point to invite activists to join from out of state. Notably, in recognition that the land on which Atlanta stands was stolen in the 1800s from the Muscogee (Creek) people, the forest protest encampment has been host to dozens of visitors from around the country who descended from the displaced Indigenous community.
The recent wave of arrests are part and parcel of a “green scare” which began in the 1990’s and has seen numerous environmental and animal rights activists labeled and charged as terrorists on a federal level consistently for no more than minor property destruction. Yet the Atlanta cases mark the first use of a state domestic terrorism statute against either an environmental or anti-racist movement.
The 19 protestors are being charged under a Georgia law passed in 2017, which, according to the republican state senator who introduced the bill, was intended to combat cases like the Boston Marathon bombing, Dylan Roof’s massacre of 9 Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
“During legislative debate over this law, the concern was raised that as written, the law was so broad that it could be used to prosecute Black Lives Matter activists blocking the highway as terrorists. The response was simply that prosecutors wouldn’t do that,” Kautz told me. “There are similar laws passed in many other states, and we believe that the existence of these laws on the books is a threat to democracy and the right to protest.”
The Georgia law is exceedingly broad. Domestic terrorism under the statute includes the destruction or disabling of ill-defined “critical infrastructure,” which can be publicly or privately owned, or “a state or government facility” with the intention to “alter, change, or coerce the policy of the government” or “affect the conduct of the government” by use of “destructive devices.” What counts as critical infrastructure here? A bank branch window? A police vehicle? Bulldozers deployed to raze the forest? What is a destructive device? A rock? A firework? And is not a huge swathe of activism the attempt to coerce a government to change policies?
Police affidavits on the arrest warrants of forest defenders facing domestic terrorism charges include the following as alleged examples of terrorist activity: “criminally trespassing on posted land,” sleeping in the forest,” “sleeping in a hammock with another defendant”, being “known members” of “a prison abolitionist movement”, and aligning themselves with Defend the Atlanta Forest by “occupying a tree house while wearing a gas mask and camouflage clothing”.
It is for good reason that Leftists, myself included, have challenged the expansion of anti-terror laws in the wake of the January 6 capitol riots or other white supremacist attacks. Terrorism laws operate to name the state and capital’s ideological enemies; they will be reliably used against anti-capitalists, leftists, and Black liberationists more readily than white supremacist extremists with deep ties to law enforcement and the republican right.
Since its passage in 2017, the Georgia domestic Terrorism law has not resulted in a single conviction. As such there had been no occasion to challenge the law’s questionable constitutionality. Chris Bruce, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “the statue establishes overly broad, far-reaching limitations that restrict public dissent of the government and criminalizes violators with severe and excessive penalties.” He said of the forest defender terror charges that they are “wholly inapposite at worst and flimsy at best.”
“The state is attempting to innovate new repressive prosecution, and I think ultimately that will fail for them,” Sara, a 32 year old service worker who lives by the imperiled forest and has been part of Stop Cop City since the movement began, told me.
What we are seeing bears some resemblance to the J20 cases, where prosecutors attempted to put blanket charges on people in the vicinity of a protest,” said Sara, who also asked to withhold her surname for fear of police harassment. She described the strategy as “an expensive a dangerous prosecutorial endeavor.”
The J20 prosecutions didn’t involve terror charges but rested on infirm claims of collective culpability, which flew in the face of the legal standard requiring individual probably cause for arrest. Those prosecutions fell apart, but not before traumatizing and exhausting the resources of the 200 plus people charged and their communities.
“The authorities legal strategy seems to be to load protestors up with extreme charges with no intention of actually making them stick, simply to discourage continued protest,” Kautz, of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, told me.
At present, seven of the 19 forest defenders facing terror charges are being held either with bond denied or set unaffordably high. Supporters are working to raise funds to ensure their freedom and cover legal fees, while refusing to abandon the forest defense.
“It’s evident the Atlanta area law enforcement, including prosecutors, believe heavy charges will crush dissent. Instead, the movement seems to have only grown with every attack from the police,” said Sara.
She noted that the violent raid and Tortuguita’s killing has been “especially devastating an heart wrenching” but that “many people are newly moved to action.” In the last week, as many as 50 acts of solidarity, from vigils to banner drops to protests have taken place across the country to honor Tortuguita and to express support for those in Atlanta defending the forest against cop city and the violence it represents.”
This is all I know about regarding Manny’s murder at this time. When I receive more updates I’ll send them as a continuation of this newsletter. Please share this and every sympathetic article you can find.
It is my personal opinion that Manny’s murder played out like this:
The cops believed the hippies in the woods were armed, violent militants, which they are not. They went into the woods as if it were a battlefield, which it is not. They approach an encampment of unarmed protestors sleeping in tents and proceeded to make a lot of noise in an attempt to dominate the area, probably by deploying flashbang grenades and teargas. Being rudely awoken, surprised, probably fearing for their their lives, people exited their tents quickly. I Imagine people were holding up cell phones. A state trooper dressed up as a real soldier probably mistook this for a weapon and hastily drew their weapon, shooting themselves in the hip in the process, hopefully shooting off their cock and balls, verifying Darwin’s theory and removing themselves from the gene pool in the process. Another likely scenario is that another cop accidentally shot the state trooper as they all approached the camp with weapons drawn, and in the confusion they all fired on the closest person, Manny. Walking through the woods with fingers on triggers is a bad idea. But unfortunately the most likely scenario is that they just rolled up on Manny and shot them to make an example out of them because they had been in the news. Then they produced one of the drop weapons they keep in their cruisers and planted it on or near Manny’s body. If you think a cop wouldn’t shoot themselves, or each other, in the abdomen to avoid prison then you don’t know any cops. They probably even made a deal with each other to shoot the newest rookie in the body armor vest, and missed and shot them in an unprotected area. Imagine one of these cops going to prison full of people who hate the police. I’ve seen it and it isn’t pretty, I can tell you from experience. It’s their worst fear, and they do anything to avoid that fate. These cops are still trying to operate the way they used to while simultaneously being afraid of ending up like Derek Chauvin and the 5 Memphis cops who killed Tyre Nichols.
Why hasn’t president Biden called Manny’s family? Why isn’t there body camera footage from this murder? Why isn’t the state trooper being investigated or charged? I’ll bet the cop is white and that has something to do with it. Why are unarmed, pacifist environmental protestors being charged as terrorists and shot and killed? Why are Tyre Nichol’s killers out on bail but not the forest defenders? Why does the testimony of multiple eye witnesses contradict the reports of police on the scene? The fact is that the feds, state and local police all went into the forest believing they were waging some crusade against brown terrorists, continuing their daddy’s tradition of cowboys versus Indians, fueled by right wing conspiracy theories that consider Black Lives Matter and Antifa to be terrorists. But what they encountered was a college student, a forest sage, an unarmed, pacifist environmentalist. In order to justify their bloated budget and the amount of money they spent on their ill conceived operation they had to make an example and so they created a terrorist where there is none, just like they do in Iraq. But we know better now, the next generations know better, and we will not stand by and watch them kill innocent civilians.
This update has an article from The Guardian by Steven Donziger and some relevant resources and moving Bible verses, and a criticism of Christians that I found in Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Before I begin I’d like to say something to and about the survivors of this police assassination of Manny Tortuguita Teran. I want them to know we all admire and love them, that they are not alone and that we will be with them through their oppression. No matter how the corrupt system tries to make them appear we know the quality of their character and will stand by them. They need to hear this from all of us, and the guards and cops interacting with them need to know that we are watching and will make sure that our friends are safe and all their needs are met. I feel it is vital that we throw all of our effort into supporting these people. They have experienced a terrifying life and death situation and are currently in danger. Anyone who knows anything about prison knows what I’m talking about. Prison is a violent place due to the toxic culture encouraged and enforced by the guards and their drug trade. Currently I don’t even know their names. Please share their names far and wide, and tell me everything we can find out about them- their specific charges, court dates, hearing dates, background and so on. When I was first arrested I had no previous experience with the prison industrial complex. I woke up one morning to the hard knock style invasion of my apartment, having recently gotten off the street a few weeks prior to my arrest after years of homelessness. I was ignored while attempting to surrender peacefully to a wound up FBI SWAT team who showed up in disguise, didn’t identify themselves, pretended to be delivering food I did not order, refused to show a warrant, broke my door down, threw a flash bang grenade at me while looking me in the eye even though I was already on my knees, then proceeded to dogpile onto me and drag me directly to prison, where I was thrown into 6 months of isolation next to an insane man who screamed day and night. I didn’t even know what I was charged with, how much time I was looking at or if anyone knew where I was or if they could even help me. The first messages, phone calls, mail, books and so on literally saved my life. Many environmental activists kidnapped from nature and trafficked into U$ dungeons have thrown their lives away in acts of desperation and despair. I know from experience that our comrades are having a very hard time right now. Even when I was arrested no one was killed, mainly because there were at least 2 witnesses in the immediate area. I was certain the feds were going to have me killed, murdered by guards or other prisoners and they actually did try to get me to kill myself several times, which I have seen result in deaths here at FCI Memphis. So you can imagine the levels of stress and fear experienced by the 7 forest defenders arrested the same day as Manny’s murder, and the 19 total comrades who face similar charges for being heroic Forest Defenders. On top of that they are struggling with the exploitation of vulnerability by police in prison, the paranoia, loneliness, confusion, change of routine and adaptation to the oppressive prison schedule. When I was first arrested guards would lie to me about the time of day, the date, my rights to phone calls, books, how to get access to these things, mail, hygiene products, religious diets and rights and so on, with even the chaplain pretending they couldn’t hear me, lying to me about the time and date and trying to convert me to Christianity while denying me access to meditation beads and resources. These things are huge for morale in prison and our friends need to know what their rights are and what to do when guards inevitably lie to them and violate their rights. So please reach out them and send them all my love, admiration, condolences, respect and courage.
The following is a recent article by The Guardian regarding Manny’s murder and the other friends still suffering persecution for their sacrifices.
“Environmentalist Manuel Teran’s death is part of a disturbing trend
Manuel Teran, a brave environmentalist known as Tortuguita, was shot and killed by the police on January 18 as they (Tortuguita was on-binary and used they/them pronouns) encamped in the forest Tortuguita and other activists had been trying to defend from being razed and turned into an enormous $90m “urban warfare” style police academy. This tragedy is an obscene scalation in the decades long war the United $tates has been waging on climate activists.
What’s even more troubling is the lack of contrition exhibited by the state that is responsible for Tortuguita’s death. Since their murder, the governor of Georgia, the police, and their allies, the pro-corporate courts, have doubled down. Seven of the surviving protestors from Atlanta have been arrested and charged with “domestic terrorism” following the fatal shooting of their comrade by police.
This terrifying escalation lays bare the opposition between the violent corporate-backed police and those who attempt to curb their takeover of our planet. The $90m facility on 85 acres is funded with the help of the Atlanta police foundation, a nonprofit that helps fund policing through partnerships with private corporations. Its board of trustees is made up of Home Depot, Delta and Wells Fargo executives.
The Georgia Police have claimed that they arrived in the forest to “clear” the protestors and “returned fire in self-defense” when someone “without warning shot a Georgia state patrol trooper.” Though the police who stormed the area were wearing body cams there is no footage to be shared. The Georgia bureau of investigation has said that “although we have bodycam footage from the day of the operation, we do not have bodycam footage of the shooting incident. The law enforcement officers wearing bodycam were not close enough to the shooting itself to capture it.” Local organizers who knew Tortuguita and others who were at the site of the shooting have called the police story of events into question, and reject the idea that there was a back-and-forth of shots, having heard all the shot at once coming from the same direction.
Tortuguita’s tragic death could easily have been avoided. Dozens of militarized police with armored vehicles akin to tanks invaded the forest searching for people they had been told were “terrorists”. In reality, the people in the forest were camping out in hammocks and tents as acts of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is how our nation was founded. Even if one does believe the police’s version of events, at a minimum, the overwhelmingly armed, militarized, and menacing SWAT team that showed up to clear the area of protestors provoked the very reaction the police could then cite to justify this completely unnecessary escalatory operation.
What happened in Atlanta is clearly part of a dangerous trend of wholesale escalation and violence by U$ law enforcement, courts, and the fossil fuel industry to attack leaders of the climate movement. What starts with a private prosecution of climate lawyers, grows to “domestic terrorism” charges leveled against peaceful protestors like Water Protector Jessica Reznicek, who is serving a draconian 8-year sentence for “terrorism” after vandalizing a pipeline. The FBI terrorism task force turned its attention toward protestors protesting against the Standing Rock pipeline. Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry is lining the coffers of police departments, as in the payment of millions to police agencies in Minnesota by oil company Enbridge, which helped fund the arrest of protestors at the company’s line 3 pipeline.
In Atlanta we have seven people in the U$ charged with “terrorism” for peacefully engaging in the great American tradition of civil disobedience. The charges against them go to elaborate lengths to tie the group Defend The Atlanta Forest to minor acts of so-called violence )possessing a pellet gun) that harmed no person and are highly questionable. Police affidavits submitted in court in DeKalb County claim one activist committed “domestic terrorism” because he was “occupying a tree house” in the forest while posting videos on social media. This all feels like the House Un-American Activities Committee of Joe McCarthy as applied to the climate movement.
Global Witness recently reported that 1,700 climate activists around the world have been murdered in the last 10 years; nobody ever thought such a thing could happen in the U$. I hope that’s not what happened.
We must watch this closely, grieve for the fallen, support those facing over-hyped “terrorism” charges, and support the Atlanta campaign to save the forest and stop the police training complex.
This article was amended on 2/2/23 to reflect that Tortuguita was non-binary and used they/them pronouns.
Steven Donziger s a human rights and environmental lawyer. He is also a Guardian US columnist.”
I believe that most of the cops who murdered Manny, and the other feds and agents involved in the plot to kill Manny, are white Christian nationalists, as this is the culture of the U$ prison and military industrial complex. They believe they hold the moral high ground through various mental gymnastics made available to them through a corrupted interpretation of Jesus’s message. Thanks to Christians like this I am no longer a Christian and I question the legitimacy of most U$ Christian’s claims of faith and moral superiority. In the past slave catchers, as cops used to be called, used the bible to justify their enslavement of others, and today they continue this tradition of warping what could be a revolutionary message of goodwill and peace on earth to capture, enslave and kill their neighbors. While reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe I came across the following bible verses and quotes that I felt relate to Manny’s beliefs and subsequent sacrifice. I believe that Manny Tortuguita is a better Christian than the cops that killed them ever will be.
“And behold the tears of such as are oppressed; and on the side of their oppressors there was power. Wherefore I praised the dead that are already dead more than the living that are yet alive.”
“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity: wherefore lookest though upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth them that is more righteous than they?”
St. Clare, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin:
“My view of Christianity is such that I think no man can consistently profess it without throwing the whole weight of his being against this monstrous system of injustice that lies at the foundation of all our society; and, if need be, sacrificing himself in the battle. That is, I mean that I could not be a Christian otherwise, though I certainly had intercourse with a great many enlightened and Christian people who did no such thing;and I confess that the apathy of religious people on this subject, their want of perception of wrongs that willed me with horror, have engendered in me more skepticism than any other thing.”
For those who do feel deeply moved by the injustice of Manny’s murder, please see the following resources and share them:
India’s alternative to prisons: http://www.alternativejustice.in/about
Defining the prison industrial complex that Manny fought:
How #nocopacademy shook the machine:
The police killings no one is talking about: https://inthesetimes.com/features/native_american_police_killings_native_lives_matter.html
Abolition is the only answer: https://www.risemagazine.org/2020/10/conversation-with-dorothy-roberts
Kurdish revolutionaries resist the Amerikkkanization of prisons in Turkey:
LA County votes to stop construction of new jail like facility:
Finally please look up #8toAbolition for practical steps for abolition progress.