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PRESS RELEASE: Sign on Letter Demands Justice for Forest Defender Killed by Police near Atlanta

Contact: steve@globaljusticeecology.org     +1 (314) 210-1322


Sign on Letter Demands Justice for Forest Defender

Killed by Police near Atlanta

2 May 2023–A sign on letter released on Earth Day (April 22) 2023 and closed on May Day (May 1) 2023 put out by Global Justice Ecology Project demands justice for Manuel Paez Teran, known as Tortuguita, who was killed by police in a hail of gunfire during a protest in a forest near Atlanta on 17 January 2023.

The sign on letter was endorsed by more than 400 people and 62 organizations representing millions of people around the globe.  These signatories, coming from more than 30 countries, make the following demands of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and US Attorney General Merrick Garland:

  • Arrest the officers involved in the shooting of Tortuguita and try them for murder.
  • Cancel the construction of “Cop City”– the $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center,
  • Drop charges of “domestic terrorism” against Stop Cop City activists.

On Wednesday April 19, 2023, the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office released the official autopsy of Manuel Paez Teran, a 26 year old Latin American activist. Teran was killed by police on January 17th, 2023, while in their tent at the Defend Atlanta Forest, Stop Cop City encampment launched to defend the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta, Georgia from destruction for a huge police training facility. The autopsy revealed that Teran was shot 57 times.

After the killing, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Director Mike Register said, “The individual who fired upon law enforcement and shot the trooper was killed in an exchange of gunfire,” and claimed that a handgun and shell casings had been found. The autopsy, however, found that there was no gunpowder residue on the hands of Teran. The Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.

“This evidence indicates that Tortuguita was assassinated by the police for their leadership in the Stop Cop City movement. This may be the most blatant assassination of a radical political activist in the US since the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in December 1969. It is the first known instance of a forest defense activist in the US being shot and killed by police.” –Global Justice Ecology Project letter

“There must also be justice for the African American community adjacent to the proposed Cop City–a community that has been overwhelmingly opposed to it,” added Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project. “Cop City construction must be cancelled. This is not just justice for Tortuguita, this is justice for this community.”

According to Global Witness, in Latin America between 2012 and 2022, “1733 defenders have been killed trying to protect their land and resources: that’s an average of one defender killed approximately every two days over ten years.”

Before being shot 57 times by police, Teran was quoted in the Bitter Southerner about their commitment to nonviolence, “The right kind of resistance is peaceful, because that’s where we win. We’re not going to beat them at violence. They’re very, very good at violence. We’re not. We win through nonviolence. That’s really the only way we can win. We don’t want more people to die. We don’t want Atlanta to turn into a war zone.”

Organizations signing onto the letter include:

AbibiNsroma Foundation, Ghana

Assonet Band of the Wampanoag Nation, USA

Athens County’s Future Action Network, USA

Biomass Action Group, Australia

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project,  USA

Brooklyn Greens / Green Party, USA

Burning Books, USA

California Communities Against Toxics, USA

Citizens for Public Schools, USA

Elev8 Soul and Science LLC, USA

Forum Ökologie & Papier, Germany

Friends of Bell Smith Springs, USA

Front Commun pour la Protection de l’Environnement et des Espaces Protégés,  Democratic Republic of the Congo  

GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives), Global / USA

GE Free New Zealand in Food and Environment, Aotearoa/ New Zealand

Global Forest Coalition, Canada

Global Justice Ecology Project, USA

Global Women’s Strike, UK

Global Women’s Strike / US, US

GMO/Toxin Free USA, USA

GreenRoots, USA

Hazelwood Urban Ag Team, USA

Heartwood, USA

Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program, USA

Instituto para el Futuro Común Amerindio IFCA, Honduras

Kentucky Heartwood, USA

Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition,  USA

Landelijk Netwerk Bos- en Bomenbescherming, The Netherlands

Langelle Photography, USA

Latin America Coalition of Buffalo, USA

Mangrove Action Project, USA

Missao Tabita, Moçambique

North American Climate, Conservation and Environment(NACCE), USA

Orange County Environmental Justice, USA

Our Health Is At Stake, USA

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan

Payday men’s network / US, USA

Peace & Planet News, USA

Peace Action of WI, USA

Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois, USA

Phunzirani Development Organisation, Malawi

Protect Our Woods, USA

Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA, Chile

Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes, Canada


Rural Advancement of the National Sharecroppers Fund, USA

Rural Coalition, USA

Seeds of Resistance, USA

Shawnee Forest Defense, USA

Smilin’ Trees Disarmament Farm, USA

South East Region Conservation Alliance Inc (SERCA), Australia

Sunflower Alliance, USA

The Corner House, UK

The Enviro Show, USA

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hidalgo County, USA

Water Justice and Gender, Peru

Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike, USA

The sign on letter can be read here

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