Forests are some of the few places left in the United States that still belong entirely to nature, with some woodlands being so densely lush with foliage that its inhabitants are shielded to any immediate human interaction. In the current environmental climate, protecting these pillars of the nation’s biodiversity and ecology is non-negotiable – at least, it should be.
In Atlanta, GA, a group dedicated to defending the Atlanta forest have been occupying Weelaunee Forest since June 6, 2022. This piece of land has been a site of oppression since Europeans first stepped foot on the land, running the native Muscogee people off of it through genocide and futile reclamation.
In 2017, it was proposed that the Atlanta Police Department would be taking over 300 acres of the land to build a $90 million training complex. The other proposed use for this space was a soundstage complex for Shadowbox Studios.
Naturally, people were upset with the potential of bulldozing a forest to build a militarized police training complex, especially with the rise in recognition of police brutality and oppression in recent years. Atlanta environmental activists placed themselves on the land to protest the building of more environmentally- and socially-oppressive instruments. The activists have occupied the land, deeming it the Weelaunee People’s Park.
On Wednesday, January 18th, police forces descended onto the forest, as they had been doing regularly, to aggregate the people in an attempt to run them out. During this invasion, the police force shot and killed forest defender Manuel Terán, who was lovingly referred to as “Tortugita”. Since his death, vigils and protests have arose around the country in memory of Torugita and in solidarity with the Atlanta Forest Defenders, as they continue to occupy their land, fight back against oppressive police, and honor their friend.
Tortugita’s family and other forest defenders are asking for donations to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, in order to help continue their fight. You can donate here: https://atlsolidarity.org/