Following the tragic killings of Tortuguita, a forest defender in the Weelaunee Forest, by Georgia police; Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police; Sayed Arif Faisal by Cambridge Police, Chiewelthap Mariar by Guymon City Police, Anthony Lowe Jr. by Huntington Park Police Department; and countless other acts of violence by police, the Worcester Tenants Union reaffirms our solidarity with victims of police terror and police abolitionists. Police are deadly tools of the racist state, and tenants must be part of the fight to end police power, a fight which is exemplified by the Stop Cop City movement in the Weelaunee Forest.
The Weelanuee Forest in Atlanta is under threat from the ‘Cop City’ project being pushed by Georgia’s ruling class, a project which would cause environmental destruction, increase flood risks, and heat up the city of Atlanta, as well as training police from across the country to sharpen their violence against people of color and working class people.
The movement opposing Cop City exists to defend the land for the people, and to stop the expansion of police power. Land defenders know that the police are a primary tool used to destroy the environment for capitalism, and militant renters know that the police are the ultimate enforcers of landlord thuggery, separating people from their homes. Homeless tenants know that the police will attack and destroy the homes people create when formal housing is inaccessible. These conflicts exist worldwide as the ruling class tries to turn everything into profit, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
WTU organizes tenants, who we define as anyone who does not have control over their housing. Renters must be in solidarity with houseless people, with squatters, with treesitters. An article by David Peisner in Bitter Southerner makes clear that forest defenders including Tortuguita are already making the connection between land defense and the right to a place to live freely:
One hot afternoon, I helped Fruit Bat carry a stack of lumber from the edge of the forest to a makeshift woodshop under a tarp, near Intrenchment Creek. He was working on building new structures to help live sustainably in these woods. He’d already been here for three months and had no plans to leave regardless of what happened with the training center or the land swap.
“I mean, I got to live somewhere,” he said. “Part of this resistance for me is protesting the system of rent, private property, and taxes. I just want to live off the land. That’s not something we can do in our society because of private property. I’m taking back the land.”
Several forest defenders told me similar things. “This is my home now,” Tortuguita said. “We’ve built a nice community here. It’s about reclaiming the parks and public space. Squatters’ rights.”
The ongoing executions by police are a core part of the American project which rules by force. Police murder people having mental health crises like Sayed Arif Faisal, and disabled people such as Anthony Lowe Jr, a double amputee. ‘Elite’ police units are used to harass Black people like Tyre Nichols and other people of color. Chiewelthap Mariar was murdered to enforce the bosses’ discipline on the workers, and his coworker was fired for filming the police execution. Tortuguita was executed for daring to resist the expansion of this violent regime.
The Worcester Tenants Union supports land defenders and victims of police violence worldwide, and co-signs the Defend the Atlanta Forest statement of Solidarity with the Movement to Stop Cop City and Defend the Atlanta Forest. We call on militant tenants everywhere to take action in the name of Tortuguita to defend the Weelaunee Forest and resist police violence.