An independent autopsy of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, the activist killed in January while protesting the development of the so-called Cop City police training center outside of Atlanta, revealed that they were shot 14 times, all from the front, and possibly while seated cross-legged, most likely with their hands raised. While this autopsy doesn’t answer questions about how the encounter developed and led to the shooting, it is yet another piece of evidence that the cops and their official story leave out a lot.
The shooting occurred on January 18, after months of protests by activists who camped out in the forest to peacefully but physically block work on the compound. They argue that the land should be preserved rather than developed, and that the center would be a training ground for urban warfare, likely against poor people of color and against future protests or political activity. The official story claims that Terán fired at them from inside a tent before a Georgia State Patrol SWAT team open fired on them. Although a SWAT member was shot, an Atlanta Police Department officer’s body cam captured officers implying that one of the SWAT team members actually shot their own. Unlike the Atlanta officers who are required to wear body cams, the Georgia SWAT team wore none, so as of now there is no direct video of the shooting. The lack of body cams raises the question: did they know they were going to use force, perhaps deadly force, and didn’t want any visuals of the event?
Protests then increased in size, took to the streets, and on a few occasions included assaults on police and the fenced-off zone that is to become the training center. In response, the police have shown their true colors even further, arresting dozens, charging 23 with domestic terrorism, and tightening repression and overbearing surveillance of peaceful protests, small groups of activists, and journalists. This is part of a larger trend nationwide of criminalizing anyone who stands up for the environment and other human beings, or against corporations or the state.
This killing by cops and the intensifying repression against activists shows again whose side the cops are on. They are not there to defend us. In fact, if we get in the way of their priorities – like new training facilities for them to practice how to repress us – they will just as soon kill us, beat us, or charge us as terrorists.
The cops are just as rotten as the system they protect. We need to keep resisting them.