Activists across Atlanta are planning a series of events for the weekend in honor of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, 26, a protester who was fatally shot by police Wednesday during an operation that evicted protesters protesting the construction of a $90 million police training center in an area . forest.
Defend the Atlanta Forest, one of the groups opposing construction of the sprawling “Cop City” development, said a awake was to be held inside the forest on Friday night. The memories are expected to continue Saturday.
A Twitter account with unclear links to the opposition movement was suspended for calling for a “night of rage” and “mutual violence” on Friday.
Teran, known to other activists as Tortuguita, was killed Wednesday as a multi-agency task force moved into the South River Forest to clear the camps of protesters who have been fighting the Cop City project since 2021.
The forest protester, who used they/them pronouns, “was a kind, passionate and loving person, valued by their community,” according to a Twitter mail from the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, another local group.
“They 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 hardest hit by the hurricane,” the group added.
Georgia officials say Teran fired unprovoked shots at officers after failing to comply with commands, while activist groups say that account is false or questionable.
“We have reason to believe that the officer who was shot today was struck by ‘friendly fire’ and not by the protester who was killed,” Defend the Atlanta Forest wrote on Twitter after the incident.
“As far as we know so far, we find it less likely that the police version of events is what really happened,” Community Movement Builders local organizer Kamau Franklin told Democracy Now!. “The idea that he was sitting in a tent and shooting out of the tent at essentially a SWAT team.”
“Residents say they hear a burst of gunfire all at once, not one shot and then a return of fire,” Kamau continued.
Activist groups have asked officials to release the name of the officers involved in the shooting, as well as body camera footage of what happened.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, whose officers were involved in the task force where the shooting took place, will investigate the activist’s death, reports Fox 5 Atlanta.
Seven others were arrested Wednesday on domestic terrorism charges in the raid that killed Teran, Fox 5 reports: Geoffrey Parsons, 20, of Maryland; Spencer Bernard Liberto, 29, of Pennsylvania; Matthew Ernest Macar, 30, of Pennsylvania; Timothy Murphy, 25, of Maine; Christopher Reynolds, 31, of Ohio; Teresa Shen, 31, of New York; and Sarah Wasilewski, 35, of Pennsylvania.
Five others were arrested late last year on similar charges for their links to the forest movement.
The Cop City project, slated to open later this year, is being paid for jointly by the city of Atlanta and the private Atlanta Police Foundation, which counts as donors and board members major corporations such as Amazon, Chick-fil-A and Delta Airlines.
The facility, which is expected to feature a “mock village” complete with a mock nightclub and convenience store for training scenarios, has attracted widespread local opposition, from groups ranging from civil rights protesters to environmentalists to native groups, who argue the facility is the last reminder of how the Muscogee The Creek was violently pushed by the forest land in the 1800s.