In a disturbing turn of events, militarized state and local police clashed with peaceful protesters marching against the construction of the controversial “Cop City” training center near Atlanta, Georgia. The authorities deployed “less-lethal” weapons, including tear gas, pepper balls, and flash-bang grenades, leaving journalists and activists horrified by the indiscriminate use of force.
Hundreds of #StopCopCity activists gathered to protest the construction of Cop City, marching from a park towards the Weelaunee Forest in suburban DeKalb County. Their march included symbolic elements such as large puppets, saplings to replant in deforested areas, and banners reading “Block Cop City” and “Viva Tortuguita,” a reference to the tragic killing of forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, known as “Tortuguita,” who was fatally shot by police during a protest camp raid.
As the activists marched towards their intended destination, police blocked the road approximately half a mile away, effectively separating the press from the rest of the march. Journalists faced threats of car towing and were prevented from rejoining the march.
Backed by intimidating SWAT vehicles, including one ominously labeled “The Beast,” the police attacked the nonviolent marchers, who attempted to push through the line of heavily armored officers. Chants of “Don’t panic, stay tight, we gonna be alright!” filled the air as some protesters courageously threw tear gas canisters back at the officers.
Notably, both protesters and police were unprepared for the effects of tear gas, with neither group equipped with gas masks. Police dogs accompanying the officers were seen with only goggles and noise-reducing ear coverings for protection.
Despite the confrontation, the activists regrouped and continued their march, with eight of them managing to reach the construction site and lock themselves to equipment.
In response to the police actions, Mary Hooks, field secretary for the Movement for Black Lives, decried the violation of civil rights and expressed her belief that Cop City must never be built. The construction of Cop City, funded by the private Atlanta Police Foundation and supported by major corporations like Amazon, Home Depot, and JPMorgan Chase, has faced strong opposition due to its location on land stolen from the Muscogee people.
The conflict surrounding Cop City escalated further following Tortuguita’s killing, with over 40 Stop Cop City campaigners facing criminal charges as domestic terrorists, and more than 60 activists indicted under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, some for merely distributing flyers.
Despite the police’s use of tear gas and force, the activists remain resolute in their commitment to protecting the environment and challenging the construction of Cop City, a project that has garnered nationwide attention for its impact on police militarization and environmental destruction. As the struggle continues, protesters emphasize the importance of practicing civil disobedience to uphold their values and principles.