Friday, 24 Mar 2023

Georgia is seeking to define Cop City protests as terrorism, experts say

Georgia is seeking to define Cop City protests as terrorism, experts say


Georgia is seeking to define Cop City protests as terrorism, experts say

When author and environmental movement expert Will Potter saw the Atlanta police chief, Darin Schierbaum, tell a recent press conference "it doesn't take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that breaking windows and setting fires is not protest - it's terrorism", he could not believe his ears.

The problem, Potter told the Guardian, is that while you may not have to be a rocket scientist, "the reality is, it's been difficult to come to an understanding of what terrorism is and what political violence is for decades".

Schierbaum was speaking about a march through midtown Atlanta, Georgia, last Saturday night that began peacefully, only to see several protesters separate and begin breaking windows of businesses and lighting fire to a police car. The marchers were protesting "Cop City", an 85-acre, $90m training facility planned for South River forest, a wooded area south-east of the city.

They were also protesting the fatal police shooting of Tortuguita, a fellow activist, less than a week earlier, on a raid in the Atlanta forest where dozens have been tree-sitting and camping for more than a year.

The march, arrests of 18 activists charged under a state domestic terrorism law, a series of raids on the forest in recent weeks and Tortuguita's killing have escalated tensions over Cop City. They culminated Thursday afternoon in the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, declaring a state of emergency. Under the order, up to 1,000 national guard troops will be available until 9 February or upon further order.

These actions have also been matched by a strident rhetoric from police and politicians in Georgia, seeking to define a largely peaceful protest movement - often focused on environmental and racial justice issues - as terrorism and those who participate in it as terrorists. It has shocked many observers including Potter, who see a crude attempt to use as powerful tools as possible to crush opposition.

"I can't help but think it's to shut the protest down and remove them from the public spotlight," Potter said of Kemp's order Thursday.

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