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Demonstrators protest the death of environmental activist Tortuguita on January 21 in Atlanta, Georgia.

A burst of gunfire rang through a forest on the edge of Atlanta, Georgia, on the morning of January 18. Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, whose chosen name was Tortuguita (Spanish for “little turtle”), had been shot and killed by police officers, becoming the only known person killed by law enforcement during an environmentalist act of land defense in the modern U.S., according to experts Grist consulted.

Tortuguita was part of a loose-knit group continuously occupying the woods to stop trees from being felled by construction of a sprawling police training center known to activists as Cop City. In 2021, with little public input, the Atlanta city council approved plans for the $90 million Public Safety Training Center on the city-owned former site of Atlanta’s prison farm, which the trees had reclaimed and had previously been included in plans for a revamped parks system. (The activists call the area the Weelaunee Forest, a name from the Muscogee people who were violently forced out of the area 200 years ago.)

Although some members of the transient and leaderless group ha... Read more

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