On March 9, 2023, Dwaign Tyndal, Melissa Miles, Kirtrina Baxter, and Leah Humphrey, the Co-Chairs of Climate Justice Alliance’s Black Caucus, released the following statement:
“In the wake of the most recent clampdown on freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and expression, Climate Justice Alliance stands with the mass mobilizations of Atlanta defending the Weelaunee Forest and Black and brown communities. With the unjust detainment and denial of bond for 22 environmental justice defenders, we join with them and demand the abolishment of all systems of harm including the police and call for substantial investments in systems of comprehensive care that address mental health and healing, self-determined communities and protected ecosystems. In the midst of ecological destruction and the intensification of the interconnected racial, economic, and climate crises, Black communities and their ecological assets are once again being placed upon the auction block, despite community outcry to the contrary.
This most recent attack follows the Atlanta Police Department’s June 2020 shooting of 27-year old Rayshard Brooks (a killing that took place one week following George Floyd), and the Atlanta City Council’s approved legislation to issue a lease of approximately 380 acres of Atlanta forest to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the construction of a police training facility known as “Cop City”. The Weelaunee Forest, one of the largest urban forests in the country, has been the site of violent oppression for decades, including multiple plantations which enslaved at least 30 Black people’ the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, known for its inhumane conditions that closed down in the 1970s; and the forced removal of the Muscogee people in the 1800s. However, in 2017, efforts by the community and city actors recognized the ecological value of the land and the need to mend environmental injustices imparted on Southeast neighborhoods. This resulted in a resolution passed by the Atlanta City Council that sought environmental restoration and preservation of the South River Forest Basin.
Sadly today, in contrast, we see that those elected by our communities have failed us and had no intentions of truly delivering safety or ecological well being to Black and brown communities. Destroying the forest, a key resource used to mitigate climate driven extreme heat and flooding in the surrounding majority Black neighborhoods, all in the name of the construction of “Cop City,” makes this clear. In 2021, Atlanta City Council voted 10-4 to approve the plans for the police training facility following 17 hours of public comment and more than 70% community members disapproving of the project according to public surveys. Moreover, earlier this year on January 18th, a community member and Stop Cop City organizer named Tortuguita, was shot and killed by police while defending the forest. Our alliance immediately joined solidarity calls with the movement to Stop Cop City and Defend the Weelaunee Forest, and joined over 1,300 groups in calling for an independent investigation of Tortuguita’s death. But this didn’t stop the City of Atlanta and Dekalb County from submitting approval for the final building permits for “Cop City” on February 1, 2023.
As the City of Atlanta and it’s Police Department hold steadfast to their efforts to create a new militarized police infrastructure which will only serve to perpetuate state sanctioned violence against our communities and accelerate the destruction of communal natural resources– we too hold steadfast in our opposition to “Cop City”, in defense of Black life, and Mother Earth. We stand with frontline communities and the mass mobilizations in Atlanta, Georgia.”