Citizens protest “Cop City” in Atlanta after the death of an Environmental Activist.

2020 was a hectic year for law enforcement across the nation. Citizens protesting against police brutality filled the streets demanding justice for victims like George Floyd and for legislators to pass bills regarding police reform. The city of Atlanta took this as an opportunity to reform its police force, following the high demand to improve law enforcement. Promising a new training facility would be the beginning of a better future for its citizens and the police.

However, the police, the city, and as well as the mayor of Atlanta have all been met with significant backlash, some even calling for the mayor’s resignation. This new training facility which has been nicknamed “Cop City”  is planned to be built on 85 acres of the Weelaunee forest which would contain a mock city, helicopter pads, shooting ranges, and a burning building meant for the police and firefighters. Yet, even though construction of the site has not officially begun, environmentalists in the areas have been protesting “Stop Cop City” and occupying the forest, setting up campsites and tents in trees.  Opponents claim that “Cop City” will not address Police brutality, that it will militarize police officers and it will have a very negative impact on the park’s environment.

On January 18th, while protesting, an activist by the name of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán was shot a total of 13 times by law enforcement after not following orders. The forest fighter was spotted by officers in a tree tent during an operation to remove all protesters from the forest. He was told to get down but refused, Terán then fired one shot at an officer but was returned with many. The death of Terán caused large-scale protests, quickly turning into riots across Atlanta. Many people breaking windows of buildings and flipping over police vehicles were arrested and charged with multiple crimes, yet most do not live in Atlanta or even Georgia. 

Not too long after the 18th, on the 26th, the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, declared a state of emergency until February 9th, activating 1,000 National Guard troops to respond to the violent protest happening in Atlanta following the shooting. Since then, the protests have died down a bit as the National Guard and Atlanta police have taken control of the city little by little. 

On Monday, February 6th,  Law enforcement carried out another “Clearing operation” on the site where “Cop City” would be built, using heavily armed police vehicles, officers, and construction equipment to clear the area.