by Dianne Mathiowetz, published on Workers World, March 7, 2023
Atlanta, March 7 —Workers World writer Dianne Mathiowetz stated:
“I was just at a press conference called by various local and national clergy that denounced the police action again as proof that there is nothing about Cop City that suggests de-escalation and protection of people’s rights. There are a significant number of Muscogee people here, and at least one of them was manhandled, brutally attacked and arrested by the police at the concert site.
“There is an acknowledgement of a variety of tactics. No disclaimer over the alleged property damage was made at today’s clergy press conference. All focus was on the militarized reactions of the police. The anger is over the fact that construction began and trees were cut down, before any construction permit has been granted. It is fenced off and has been guarded by cops 24 hours a day.”
The following news release was issued by Defend the Atlanta Forest after a brutal cop attack during the Week of Action to stop “Cop City.”
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March 6 — Last night, multiple police agencies dressed in militarized gear and armed with lethal weapons raided a local family friendly music festival in a public park within the Weelaunee Forest. They used excessive force to arrest dozens of concert-goers and threatened to shoot people in the park. The event was being held on the second day of the fifth Week of Action to protect the Weelaunee (Atlanta) Forest and stop Cop City.
Around 1,000 people gathered in a field among the trees in Weelaunee Forest for a second day of the music festival to listen to musicians perform, catch up with friends, enjoy an inflatable bounce house and share food.
A separate protest group with hundreds of people marched to the forest near the Old Prison Farm, the site leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation for Cop City. The march was in response to the murder of activist “Tortuguita” and a move to reclaim the Weelaunee Forest as a public commons. There are reports of construction vehicles and surveillance equipment being set on fire.
Sometime after this action, police retaliated viciously by raiding the entire forest, arresting at least 35 people at the nearby music festival, including people with no connection to or awareness of the action on the other side of the nearly 600-acre forest.
People attending the festival say police tased concert-goers who were moving away from the commotion, tackled people to the ground and threatened to use lethal force. One cop reportedly kept an Indigenous concert-goer in a chokehold while fully on top of them.
Another eyewitness reports that a police officer of an unknown agency said, “I swear to God, I will fucking kill you” to civilians in Weelaunee People’s Park (Intrenchment Creek Park). The Atlanta Community Press Collective reports that tear gas and pepper balls were used on people during arrests.
Despite this indiscriminate and violent attack by the police, the festival continued for over an hour with the crowd chanting: “Stop Cop City!” and “The show must go on!” between musical acts. Then, an army of police forces, without warning, raided the festival en masse.
Unicorn Riot reports that officers surrounded the inflatable bounce house, pointed guns inside and later tore it down. The heavily armed officers then surrounded the remaining crowd, which included children, and deployed LRAD (acoustic warfare equipment). The police threatened to arrest all of the music festival participants on domestic terrorism charges.
In defense, festival-goers, park-goers, children and musicians stuck together and chanted: “We have children here!” and “Let us go home!” According to the Atlanta Community Press Collective, after festival-goers demanded to be released, the police checked identification cards of those leaving the forest.
Multiple legal observers were detained, and one legal observer was arrested. Several musicians were arrested as well. Additionally, multiple reporters were threatened with arrest by police. According to DeKalb County jail records, at least 22 people have been charged with domestic terrorism.
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There have been many additional reports of police aggression that are still being confirmed. The Atlanta Solidarity Fund stated:
“Indiscriminate police violence tonight against Stop Cop City festival-goers. Police seem to be lashing out at anyone present at the music festival. Music is not a crime; protest is not a crime. People lawfully exercising First Amendment rights cannot be held criminally liable for the actions of others.”
“Cop City will never be a legitimate project. It continues to be widely opposed by Atlantans. The civil rights violations committed by police yesterday reaffirms that this cop training facility should never be built. We stand steadfast in our conviction to build a new world in which all people are safe from police terror,”
says an organizer who wishes to remain anonymous.
To support those arrested, please visit atlsolidarity.org/ and donate to the bail fund.
You can visit defendtheatlantaforest.org/calendar/ for a full schedule. The week of action continues.
For background on this struggle go to workers.org: