Following violent protests in Atlanta against the construction of a police training complex and the shooting death by police of an alleged environmental protester, Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia on Thursday proclaimed a state of emergency.
If the governor doesn’t extend it past February 9th, the state of emergency, which permits the use of up to 1,000 National Guard troops to respond to episodes of public unrest, will end on that day.
In the South River Forest of Dekalb County, protesters oppose the construction of the Atlantic Public Safety Center, also known as “Cop City.” Last week, a tragic shooting during a SWAT raid on the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” group camp brought the movement to the attention of the country.
Activists who were present during the raid dispute the police’s account of what happened, despite the fact that Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, 26, is accused of firing first.
The officers involved in the shooting, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, were not sporting body cameras at the time of the incident.
With activists holding vigils from Akron, Ohio, to Kurdistan, Teran’s death triggered widespread rallies against police brutality.
On Saturday, rallies in Atlanta became violent when demonstrators set a police cruiser on fire and threw rocks at the skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation.
The demonstrators, Kemp said in his State of the State speech on Wednesday, were “out-of-state rioters” who “tried to bring mayhem to the streets of our capital city.” In Georgia, we’ll always support the blue, he said, citing this as the “latest example.”
Kemp activated the National Guard to provide security at the state Capitol, the governor’s mansion, and other public locations during the Black Lives Matter rallies in 2020, and he continued to do so far into 2021.
Since the summer of 2021, members of the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement have participated in protracted tree-sits, marches, and other acts of resistance against the clearing of more than 380 acres of forest property in order to create a mimic city and a training facility for police.
Recent confrontations between protestors and police have become more violent, with protesters tossing Molotov cocktails at the police and the latter using tear gas and rubber bullets to drive the latter out of treehouse encampments.
A state law that carries a maximum 35-year jail sentence has been used to accuse 12 demonstrators of domestic terrorism since December.
As a result of chemical runoff from weapons testing, activists contend that the building of the training facility will increase police aggression against the county’s primarily Black and Brown communities and perpetuate racism in the environment.
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