Last month’s killing of a nonbinary activist known as “Tortuguita,” who was shot during an occupation protest in Atlanta’s South River Forest, marked the first police killing of a demonstrator in the history of the U.S. environmental movement.
Police arrived in the forest Jan. 18 following months of tensions with protestors who had camped in the vicinity. Tortuguita and seven other people were also taken into custody. It was the second police raid that resulted in arrests in about a month’s time.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), has stated that Tortuguita shot a trooper and then officers fired .. No body camera footage of the shooting is available, according to the bureau.
Lawyers for the the family of Tortuguita, whose full name is Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, are questioning the police account of the shooting and say the GBI has not answered the family’s questions about the shooting.
“We have contacted them through every channel we have available to us. In an interview, Jeff Filipovits (an Atlanta civil rights lawyer) stated that they have received no reply or offer to share information with them. “They want to know what happened to their child.”
Occupation protests have been a staple of environmental activism for decades, but the one in Atlanta was different. Where police had often been intermediaries in previous protests, in Atlanta they acted as opponents whose own interest — a developmental project for a police complex — was a central part of the protest.
“There’s a long history of law enforcement confronting direct-action environmentalist activists and those confrontations turning hostile,” said Keith Woodhouse, an assistant professor at Northwestern University who wrote a book about radical environmental activism. “The huge difference is that one of these activists was shot and killed, and that is, I think, unprecedented in the United States.”
And in the modern protest era, more and more often environmentalists who might have once been narrowly focused or branched out from other movements are now in the middle of a far wider web of societal issues.
” The protection of the forest for activists is tied to the issue of US policing, militarization, and police force in America.
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