US Police shooting of activist fuels ‘Cop City’ controversy

WASHINGTON: Atlanta, Georgia, US – For the past two years, Atlanta’s “Stop Cop City” has been a largely peaceful opposition movement, with activists building treehouses to occupy a plot of forest earmarked for a police training centre.
But last month, things took a violent turn when environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, 26, was gunned down during a police raid. According to a private autopsy conducted by his family, the young man, known by the nickname “Tortuguita” because he loved turtles, was shot at least 13 times.The officers involved in the confrontation were reportedly not wearing body cameras, but police have alleged that Teran shot first at a state trooper after ignoring verbal commands. Activists and Teran’s family members say otherwise.
“Manny was a kind person who helped anyone who needed it. He was a pacifist. They say he shot a police officer. I do not believe it,” the young man’s mother, Belkis Teran, said in a public statement after the January 18 killing. “I do not understand why they will not even privately explain to us what happened to our child.”
Although Atlanta police have released some body camera footage from officers who arrived at the scene after Teran was shot, none provides a glimpse into the operation itself.
Teran’s family says the videos “raise more questions than they answer”, and has called on all agencies involved to release all relevant recordings. The ambiguity has led to growing calls for an independent investigation.
Experts say this is the first documented case of an environmental activist being killed by United States police. But it has not stopped Atlanta’s plans to move ahead with a massive police and firefighter training centre dubbed by activists as “Cop City”.
Opponents say the facility, being built in a forested area surrounded by majority-Black neighbourhoods, will damage the environment and contribute to the oppression of their communities. City officials have said the project will be sensitive to environmental concerns, including the protection of hundreds of acres of green space, and provide more effective training grounds for police and firefighters. –Agencies