Last week, climate activists from 350.org, local chapters from Portland, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and Honor the Earth joined up as part of a delegation to learn from on-the-ground organizers about their work to stop Cop City and defend the Weelaunee Forest.
This experience has given us an understanding of how truly and deeply intersectional this fight is. We’re up against some of the most powerful and pernicious forces in the world, which is why we need as many supporters in this fight as possible. Here’s what you need to know:
What’s Happening —
#StopCopCity is a grassroots movement that has arisen from many years of Black-led organizing in Atlanta, Georgia. Communities immediately started organizing when the city announced its plan to build a $90 million police and military training site in Weelaunee Forest – the largest urban forest in the United States.
[photo above] Land Acknowledgement in Weelaunee Forest put up by ATL Forest Defenders
Behind this project is the Atlanta Police Foundation, which is funded by some of the most powerful companies in the city – including Delta, AT&T, Home Depot, Bank of America, Chase, and many more.
Construction for this project was greenlit despite community input against it and after various backroom meetings between former Mayor Bottoms, corporate investors, contractors, city council, and other government officials.
Weelaunee Forest, original land of the Muscogee people is sacred Indigenous land that holds value for so many. It’s a natural barrier against climate change and a place where multiracial communities of Atlanta spend their time biking, walking their dogs, and simply existing. A local school even started a community garden that has since been decimated by the police. Urban forests like Weelaunee also hold immense value for our ecosystem by playing a role in controlling urban heat effect, air quality, and flooding.
Opposition to Cop City began immediately when the public first became aware of the project in early 2021. Activists and community members in the primarily Black neighborhoods surrounding the proposed training center site began a series of organizing interventions and community events, including – mass meetings, barbecues, teach-ins, canvassing, and public outreach by activists and community members. All of these activities have continued since for the entire time of the movement. Firsthand we saw how this movement is rooted in joy, resistance, and care for people and the land.
One of these forest defenders, an Indigenous queer Venezuelan activist, Manuel “Tortuguita” Páez Terán, was a true source of light who not only protested at the camp for months on end, but also raised huge amounts of mutual aid for the surrounding community. Tragically, Tortuguita was shot and killed by police during a SWAT raid of the camp.
The mobilization to #StopCopCity rests at the intersection of climate justice, racial justice, and social justice. It’s a call from frontline communities in Atlanta to not only protect the Weelaunee Forest but also to stand in solidarity with communities of color who suffer the daily impact of police brutality and corruption at the hands of the institution of the police. As a movement for climate justice, we stand in solidarity with the movement calling to defund the police and redirect resources to community safety.
There is a lot more to say about this movement, but we recommend checking out this resource where you can learn even more.
How You Can Take Action
As we said before, we need as many supporters in this fight as possible. There are several different ways you can take action, including:
- Coming to Atlanta for the Week of Action, taking place from March 4th–11th.
- Organizing a solidarity action from your home. There are a wide range of targets you can choose from and actions you can take, including making calls, flyering, and staging a public protest. You can click here to learn more.
- Donating to the movement through The Atlanta Solidarity Fund and the Forest Justice Defense Fund.
- Share these videos about #StopCopCity on your social media:
Ultimately, there is not one person or entity to blame for this project. The propellers of Cop City include conservative interests, the gentrifying middle-class, and the web of corporate power. Together, these forces would create an overpoliced state that does not hesitate to take a life, destroy the environment, impede on the civil rights of Black and brown communities, and ignore Indigenous land rights. We can’t overstate how important this fight is.
Here are some reflections from the delegation on the importance of this movement:
Lisa Demaine, co-executive director of 350NewHampshire said about her experience on the ground, “Hearing and understanding what has been happening in Atlanta for the past few years was a lot of connecting the dots between environmental racism, militarized police, and their brutality towards so many people. I learned that the tactics to be trained in Atlanta’s cop city will be used on organizers outside of Georgia in addition to within the state. These militarized police training facilities exist or are being proposed in other cities of the US. We keep us safe, police are trained to respond to rather than prevent harm. In NH we have looked at the target map of investors to the Atlanta Police Foundation and have begun to call them out publicly and with calls to the offices for their divestment from the APF. There are investors in the project across the US.”
Eloise Navarro, National Fossil Fuels organizer at 350PDX (Portland) shared the following reflection on the 350 delegation to Atlanta, “Spending time in Atlanta with folks from the Stop Cop City movement has illuminated the incredible power of decentralized organizing rooted in care and community. As we had conversations with organizers of varying perspectives and movement strategies, it became clear that it is our responsibility as climate justice groups not to be involved only because a forest could be demolished, but because regardless of where Cop City (or any police development project) is built, it will poison the places we call home. Whether our “home” is the forest, urban spaces, community gathering places, or where we live, it is worth fighting for. We can undoubtedly support Atlanta through mobilization, organizing, policy support, and donations. But from the energy I felt during our conversations with those on the ground, I found there is another way we can show up in addition to these things. We can look internally to dismantle ways we participate in policing and punishment within our relationships to move toward more healing and restorative connections. Cop City must never be built anywhere, and our fight must include culture-shifting work that starts with us.
We hope you join us in the struggle now, whether it’s here in Atlanta or at home.
With rage, sadness, and solidarity,
Krystal Two Bulls, Honor the Earth
Skyler Bouyer, Honor the Earth Youth Organizer
Eloise Navarro, 350 PDX
Lisa Demaine, 350 New Hampshire
Evan Fritz, 350 Connecticut
Jeff Ordower, 350.org
[left to right] Evan Fritz, 350CT; Jeff Ordower, 350.org; Krystal Two Bulls, Honor the Earth; Lisa Demaine, 350 New Hampshire; Eloise Navarro, 350 PDX; Skyler Bouyer, Honor the Earth Youth Organizer