‘Forest defenders’ begin week of action to block Atlanta police training center

Today is the start of a “week of action” for the self-styled “forest defenders” who are doing their best to stop the construction of a police training center in a forest just south of Atlanta. The NY Times is giving them a little boost with a story titled “A New Front Line in the Debate Over Policing: A Forest Near Atlanta.,

When construction crews rolled into a patch of pine and maple trees southeast of Atlanta last month, the scene had more in common with a military incursion than a municipal building project in the suburbs. Police officers in armored trucks escorted construction workers as they cleared a pathway for heavy equipment and installed anti-erosion fences.

For 18 months, this parcel of woodland — once a prison farm for low-level convicts, now mostly reclaimed by the surrounding forest — has galvanized both environmental advocates who want to preserve one of the region’s largest remaining green spaces and activists concerned about the increased militarization and aggressive tactics To install police forces.

Mounting protests and scattered violence culminated in January in what the police described as a shootout that left a protester dead, a state trooper seriously wounded and Georgia’s governor authorizing the National Guard to intervene. Now, with organizers again calling for mass demonstrations starting this weekend, officials worry that confrontations may resume, and that the conflict could escalate.

Those opening paragraphs should be studied as an example of how to slant a story. Paragraph one: militant police. Paragraph two: Activists in the woods concerned about militant police. Paragraph three: Vague references to violence and a “shootout” which carefully avoids saying who shot who first. Eventually, about halfway through the story, we get a slightly more descriptive paragraph about what happened,

As months of protests grew increasingly tense in January — activists have thrown Molotov cocktails and destroyed construction equipment, the police say — an attempt by officials to clear out the forest ended in what the authorities described as an exchange of gunfire, A protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, 26, was killed, and a state trooper seriously wounded.

It’s really not necessary to use the “police say” phrasing here since there’s video of the Molotov being thrown and of the destroyed equipment. As for the description of the shooting, it’s not a whole lot better than the first one. “Exchange of gunfire” is just another way of saying a shootout which again omits who started the shooting. If you follow the link and scroll down to the 11th paragraph of the 21 paragraph story titled “Protester Killed in Firefight at Site of New Atlanta Police Center” you do finally get this one critical sentence.

Mr. Register said that a person shot “without warning,” hitting the trooper, and officers returned fire. The person who was killed has not been identified by the authorities or the activists.

It’s almost like Times is doing its best to hide the ball here. Why is that I wonder?

Meanwhile, the “forest defenders have gathered for their kickoff rally.

In the clip below, the protesters are being led in the Assata Shakur chant, ie “It is our duty to fight for our freedom.” This is not coincidental at a gathering to protest a police training center. If you’re not familiar with Assata Shakur, she’s a beloved figure on the left, Her real name is Joanne Chesimard and decades ago she was a member of the violent Black Liberation Army. In 1973, she and two fellow members of the group were stopped by two troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike. They opened fire killing one of the troopers and wounding the other. She was captured, tried, found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. But in 1979 she escaped and went on the run to Cuba where she has apparently been ever since.

After chanting this cop-killer’s mantra, they marched off into the forest where a protester called Tortuguita opened fire on a Georgia state trooper. I’m sensing a pattern here.

This is supposed to last all week including a concert tomorrow night.

The police have issued a brief statement,

“The Atlanta Police Department is aware of these incidents, and we will continue to monitor them. We stand ready to respond to demonstrations to ensure the safety of those in our communities and those exercising their first amendment rights, or to address illegal activity, should the need arise.”

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next. Unicorn Riot is there covering the event so there’s lots of videos of what’s happening if you’re so inclined. I’ll update this story below if there are any big developments today or tomorrow.

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