Atlanta, GA – A protester was shot and killed by police Wednesday morning, January 18, in the midst of a multi-jurisdictional raid on the Atlanta Forest, also known as the Weelaunee Forest, in DeKalb County, southeast of Atlanta.
Update 1/19/23 at 4:30 p.m. EST:
The protester killed by police has been identified as Manuel Terán, a forest defender who also went by the nickname Tortuguita or Tort. Terán was from Tallahassee, Florida and traveled to Atlanta to participate in the effort to protect the forest. Terán’s identity was first reported by the Atlanta Community Press Collective.
For the past year, Terán spent their time between Atlanta and Florida, where they participated in Tallahassee Food Not Bombs and disaster relief efforts through building housing for low income communities hit by hurricanes.
“They were a trained medic, a loving partner, a dear friend, a brave soul, and so much more,” wrote friends of Terán in a statement posted on Instagram.
“In Manuel’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.”Instagram statement by stopcopcity
Throughout the day and into the night, efforts to extract forest defenders from the trees continued, with arborists cutting down trees and tree houses in an effort to remove protesters. At least nineteen people were arrested throughout the day, six of whom were charged with “domestic terrorism,” according to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. Others were charged with “criminal trespassing.”
An additional person was arrested near the entrance of Intrenchment Creek Park and taken into custody by the Georgia State Patrol. The person told a Unicorn Riot contributor that they were arrested for filming.
In the evening, community members mourned and held space for Terán at Findley Plaza in Little Five Points, Atlanta. The vigil turned into a march, as at least 100 people chose to hold space for the forest defender in the streets.
A Georgia State Trooper was reportedly also shot during the raid and is currently undergoing surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital, according to police. At least three other protesters were reportedly arrested during the raid and were charged with “aggravated assault on a public safety officer” and “domestic terrorism.”
A forest defender, who was present during the raid and spoke with Unicorn Riot under conditions of anonymity, reported hearing 10-12 gunshots all at once followed by a loud boom.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the investigation into the incident, said that the killing occurred after police were fired on by the protester. Protesters, however, have questioned this narrative, “calling on legal observers and journalists” to launch an independent investigation of the incident.
“Since June 6, 2022, activists and community members fighting to Defend the Atlanta Forest and Stop Cop City have been demanding that officers stop bringing weapons into the forest after APD pointed their weapons at peaceful protestors,” said the Atlanta Community Press Collective in a press release.
“This morning Georgia State Patrol officers killed a protester in the South Atlanta Forest,” wrote the Atlanta Solidarity Fund in a statement.
“GSP has not released body camera footage or meaningful details, and we are concerned a police cover-up could be underway. We are preparing a legal team to investigate and pursue a wrongful death suit.”Atlanta Solidarity Fund
The forest has been the site of a yearslong campaign to prevent the destruction of the forest and the construction of a $90 million police training facility, dubbed “Cop City” by its opponents, and a sprawling Hollywood film studio project led by Shadowbox Studios, formerly Blackhall Studios, and Blackhall Real Estate Phase II, LLC.
Protesters have called for a vigil Wednesday night in response to the killing.
“No one can bring our friend back to us,” read a flier circulated on social media calling for the vigil. “An innocent life has been taken and the machines continue. We invite you to come to a candlelight vigil to remember and grieve our lost friend. We will not go quietly into this dark night. RIP, with love and solidarity.”
Police have demonstrated a pattern of escalating tactics as the movement against the Cop City project has built momentum. The killing of a protester in the forest is the most recent manifestation of that escalation.
In June 2022, Atlanta Police officers were caught on radio traffic justifying the use of lethal force against protesters who used molotov cocktails to defend themselves and the forest in the midst of a police raid. No forest defenders have been charged for use of molotovs or incendiary devices.
“I told you, deadly force encounter,” said one officer. “That’s why I brought it up, as long as we’re all on the same page, Molotov cocktail’s a deadly force encounter.”
A “deadly force encounter” is a situation in which officers are legally allowed to shoot to kill.
On Dec. 14, following a previous raid on the forest, Marlon Kautz, an organizer with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, cautioned the public about the rapidly escalating tactics used by police.
“Are we gonna end up in a situation where the police are murdering protesters in order to advance, not public safety, but their particular political agenda in building Cop City?”Marlon Kautz
The killing follows a previous raid on the forest encampments on December 13 and 14 which resulted in six protesters being charged with “domestic terrorism.”
Unicorn Riot's coverage on the movement to defend the Atlanta Forest:
- Landing Page: Unicorn Riot Coverage of the Movement to Protect the Atlanta Forest
- No Charges For Georgia Troopers Who Killed Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Terán (October 6, 2023)
- Over 60 People Indicted on RICO Charges in Atlanta, Allegedly Promoting ‘Anarchist Ideas’ (September 5, 2023)
- Indigenous Climate Activist Victor Puertas Remains in Custody Despite No Indictment (July 26, 2023)
- 6th ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action – Unicorn Riot Coverage
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Day 8: Youth Rally; Atlanta Police Vehicles Torched (July 2, 2023)
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Day 7: Cadence Bank ‘Drop The Loan’ Protest, Panel on Overpolicing (June 30, 2023)
- Clergy Demand Release of Indigenous Climate Activist Victor Puertas from ICE Detention (June 29, 2023)
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Day 5: Cadence Bank Loan Protest, ‘March For the Forest’ (June 29, 2023)
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Day 4: Rally to Reopen Intrenchment Creek Park (June 27, 2023)
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Day 3: Bike Ride/Rally, Signature Gathering, Discussing Movement History (June 26, 2023)
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Day 2: Rematriating Mvskoke Land; Hardcore Benefit Show (June 25, 2023)
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Begins: Day 1 (June 24, 2023)
- ‘Their Overreach is Sowing the Seeds of Their Undoing’: Forest Defender Speaks from Bartow County Jail (June 20, 2023)
- ‘Cop City’ Protesters Visit Nationwide Insurance (June 14, 2023)
- Atlanta City Council Approves $67 Million in Public Funds for ‘Cop City’ (June 6, 2023)
- Atlanta Solidarity Fund Organizers Granted Bond (June 2, 2023)
- Three Atlanta Activists Arrested, Home Raided Over Bail Fund (May 31, 2023)
- ‘Don’t Forget Us’: Forest Defenders Confront Horrors of Life in DeKalb County Jail (May 30, 2023)
- ‘Cop City’ Panel Member Posted Slurs Online, Archived Tweets Indicate (May 18, 2023)
- ‘We Do Not Need a School for Assassins’: Hours of Public Comment Unanimously Against ‘Cop City’ (May 16, 2023)
- Three Face Felonies for Allegedly Flyering Near Home of One Georgia Trooper Tied to Killing of Forest Defender (May 8, 2023)
- One Granted Bond, Two Denied Pretrial Release: Forest Defenders Appear for Preliminary Hearings (May 4, 2023)
- No Gunpowder Residue Found on Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Terán According to DeKalb County Autopsy (April 21, 2023)
- Eight Remain in Jail from March 5 Weelaunee Forest Raid, 15 Released (March 24, 2023)
- Behind the #StopCopCity Domestic Terrorism Warrants (March 21, 2023)
- An Historic Direct Action in a Forest Outside Atlanta (March 18, 2023)
- Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Terán’s Independent Autopsy Report Released at Press Conference (March 13, 2023)
- Police Raid Atlanta Forest After ‘Cop City’ Opponents Overrun Security Post (March 5, 2023)
- ‘Stop Cop City’ Week of Action Begins in Atlanta (March 4, 2023)
- ‘Tortuguita Vive’: A No-Compromise Movement Responds to Police Killing a Forest Defender (February 27, 2023)
- Atlanta Activists Say Prosecutors Plan to Indict them on RICO Charges (February 25, 2023)
- ‘Community’ Committee Cheers Police Violence as Authorities Repress Resistance to ‘Cop City’ (February 24, 2023)
- Supporters of ‘Cop City’ Opponents Rally in Philly (February 24, 2023)
- Minneapolis March Connects Roof Depot Demolition Resistance to the Atlanta Forest (February 21, 2023)
- Atlanta PD Releases Bodycam Footage from Deadly Jan. 18 Forest Raid (February 8, 2023)
- Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Terán’s Family Seeks Transparency in Police Killing (February 7, 2023)
- City of Atlanta and DeKalb County Announce ‘Agreement’ Amid Growing Opposition to Cop City (January 31, 2023)
- Marches and Vigils Across the US Respond to the Police Killing of Forest Defender Tort (January 22, 2023)
- Protester Shot and Killed by Officers During Raid on Atlanta Forest (January 18, 2023)
- Blackhall Intensifies Destruction of Weelaunee People’s Park in Atlanta Forest (January 16, 2023)
- SWAT Teams Attack Atlanta Forest Encampments, Activists Charged with ‘Terrorism’ (December 18, 2022)
- [Mini Doc] Defending the Atlanta Forest: Behind the Movement to Stop Cop City (Oct. 9, 2022)
- “Cop City” General Contractors’ Offices Attacked (May 19, 2022)
- Police Raid Atlanta Forest Occupation (May 18, 2022)
- Atlanta Fights to Save Its Forest (May 14, 2022)