By : Grace Raih
9 min read
Every day, police demonstrate their true function as brute enforcers of the state’s status quo, shielded under the law and enabled by media narratives to operate by any means necessary. Monitoring and disrupting liberation movements that threaten existing power structures through invasive surveillance, violence, and misinformation campaigns are central to the modern policing model. The vast majority of law enforcement agencies have only increased their budgets following the 2020 uprisings, and, in 2022, police killed more people than any other year on record.
The Stop Cop City Movement recently gained national attention over the killing of forest defender and activist Manuel “Tortuguita” (little turtle) Terán by Atlanta police. During a violent raid to clear protester encampments, Atlanta police shot and killed Tortuguita. This murder by police follows months of escalations against activists occupying Weelaunee People’s Park. Last June, police arrived at a demonstration with guns drawn, arresting both protestors and uninvolved bystanders. In December, five protestors were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism following raids on the forest in which police reportedly used tear gas, pepper balls, and rubber bullets to dislodge activists from tree-sits.
Cop City is a $90 million dollar proposed police militarization facility to be built across the dense woodland of Atlanta’s Weelaunee Forest, also known as the South River Forest. This plan, under lease of the Atlanta Police Foundation, would cause ecological destruction through the reduction of carbon sequestration and significant deforestation of hundreds of acres of land that help to prevent flooding and protect against extreme heat.
Atlanta is already the most heavily surveilled city in the U.S. thanks to “Operation Shield”, a 2017 project to develop a network of nearly 11,000 surveillance cameras and license plate readers across the city. Cop City will further increase police presence and budgets, as well as further militarize law enforcement through the creation of a mock neighborhood for raids. There, officers can practice advanced urban warfare tactics and stockpile military grade weaponry for future deployment against the people of Atlanta.
Destroying the natural environment to invest in police militarization and their advanced urban warfare is a matter of racial justice and climate activism. Diversity trainings, body cameras, citizen review boards, and other liberal reforms can never absolve policing from its inherent racialized violence, and have only funneled mass amounts of money into law enforcement agencies. The War on Crime and the signing of the Safe Streets Act ignited the allocation of federal funds to “modernized” police departments in the 1960s, and the flow of money, military hardware, and unchecked power has only intensified generationally to the era of mass surveillance we find ourselves in today.
The core objectives of policing are the objectives of white supremacy, as police are the defenders of white property and wealth assessed under racial capitalism. The Atlanta Police Foundation is incredibly well funded by these large corporations driving climate change through greed driven, destructive environmental practices. Increased and intensified storms cause flooding and other forms of destruction, disproportionately affecting members of historically oppressed populations such as low income and/or Black people and Latine people. Unless massively opposed, Cop City will provide a training ground for police to practice their work as agents of disruption, jailing and murdering those like Tortuguita who are actively fighting for climate and racial justice.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #154 February 202
Check out all the art and columns of February's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass