On January 18, state troopers shot and killed Tortuguita Terán, an environmental activist protesting forest destruction in DeKalb County, near Atlanta, GA. Defending Rights & Dissent is dismayed by this repression of dissent and condemns it in the strongest possible terms. Terán belonged to a contingent of climate activists occupying forest land to block construction of what activists have termed “Cop City” – a planned complex with training facilities for law enforcement personnel and firefighters. On Friday, armed law enforcement personnel stormed the campsite activists have occupied for over a year, clearing the encampment. During the confrontation, law enforcement personnel fatally shot Terán.
Following protests in the wake of Terán’s death, Atlanta police charged seven more people with domestic terrorism charges, adding to the litany of other charges brought against the Cop City protesters. In December, other protesters were charged with domestic terrorism for throwing rocks and bottles at police cars. These charges reflect misapplication of domestic terrorism laws and are clearly selectively weaponized against protesters.
Throughout our history, occupation has been a key tactic in the fight for indigenous liberation, civil rights, and protection of the environment. To decry this tactic as domestic terrorism undermines the proud history of dissent in America. State-sponsored violence and the weaponization of terrorism charges are intimidation tactics designed to repress dissent and trample First Amendment freedoms. To pretend otherwise is to misunderstand the history of disruptive activism. We condemn the probable murder of Terán and echo calls for an independent investigation and accountability for this blatant violation of First Amendment rights.