During the fight is on to defend Atlanta’s South River Forest from the construction of a law enforcement training village, a queer community organizer, Tortuguita, was reportedly shot and killed by law enforcement last Wednesday, Them reports.
In August 2021, Atlanta announced the construction of an 85-acre police training facility in the South River Forest, also known as the Weelaunee Forest. Plans reportedly include several gun ranges, models of city blocks to be used in training demonstrations, and more. Accordingly, a diverse coalition of protesters have been organizing against the “Cop City” proposal for a year, including by occupying the forest in protest camps.
Tortuguita, an Indigenous Venezuelan who was also queer and nonbinary, was a forest defender who was killed during a SWAT operation to clear a protest camp. In a statement to multiple media outlets, an anonymous forest defender stated that gunfire was heard Wednesday morning around nine a.m. Authorities claimed that Tortuguita was told by officers to exit their tent, and that they were the first to shoot, injuring a Georgia State Patrol Trooper. An as-of-yet unnamed officer reportedly shot back, killing the 26-year-old activist.
Officials say that there is no body camera footage of the encounter.
Tortuguita was vocally committed to non-violence: “We get a lot of support from people who live here, and that’s important because we win through nonviolence,” they said in a December profile. “We’re not going to beat them at violence. But we can beat them in public opinion, in the courts even.”
A GoFundMe for the activist’s funeral costs states that Tortuguita was “always the biggest light in any room they entered.” The Atlanta Press Collective wrote that Tortuguita “spent their time between Atlanta, defending the forest from destruction and coordinating mutual aid for the movement and Florida where they helped build housing in low income communities hit hardest by the hurricane.”
“They were a trained medic, a loving partner, a dear friend, a brave soul, and so much more,” the statement reads.
Around the country, people have attended vigils for Tortuguita after they were killed. The Atlanta Press Collective also published anonymous tributes to the activist, with multiple people lauding their commitment to the QTBIPOC community. “They loved all life and people – especially their QTPOC community – deeply,” one mourner wrote.
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