Statement by National Director of 350 on Police Murder of Forest Defender Manuel Ternam

January 19, 2023

I write to you with a heavy heart. Atlanta police yesterday murdered Manuel Teran, known to comrades as Tortuguita. Tortuguita’s “crime” was defending a forest in the heart of Atlanta — but not just any forest, one that is being destroyed so that the police can have more space for their “Cop City” training the police using military-grade facilities.

If you have not been following this critical campaign, the Atlanta Police Foundation — a private entity — received governmental clearance to begin destroying Weelaunee Forest to build Cop City over the objections of local Atlanta residents. The Cop City project threatens the forest, along with the expansion of Blackhall studios—slated to bulldoze another section of the Weelaunee Forest to build movie production sound stages. After exhausting legal channels, organizers moved into the forest, occupying trees and slowing down construction, while running a campaign targeting the Police Foundation and private contractors. You can learn more about the perniciousness of police foundations in this report. Yesterday, police moved in full force to evict the encampment, using their usual litany of brutal tactics.

As we’ve seen all too often with police brutality (especially when waged on Black communities), we can expect the usual false claims of “self-defense,” coupled with an attempt to smear the victim. We will also likely hear a lot about “appropriate” and “inappropriate” forms of protest. I assure you, we stand with the Atlanta Forest Defenders and all of those who defend the land, the water, and the planet. Unfortunately, we also fear — given what we have seen at Standing Rock, in Atlanta, and during the uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd — that police violence will increasingly become the norm, not the exception to protest movements here in the U.S.

We will continue to track these threats and we promise to keep you informed about what you can do to support the frontline activists at Stop Cop City.

Even with heavy hearts, our movement carries on with determination and radical joy(e): tomorrow, we honor another hero who passed away too soon, Joye Braun, the first camper at Standing Rock, who spent decades on the frontlines defending Indigenous lands. We hope you will sign up and join an event in honor of Joye if you haven’t yet — we need all of us in this fight.

With rage and determination,

Jeff Ordower
North America Director