A Queer environmental activist was killed by police in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, January 18.
Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, 26 was shot and killed while protesting the construction of the planned $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, an 85-acre police training facility in the South River Forest.
Joint Task Force Operation To Clear Activist Encampment
Georgia police allege that on Wednesday morning, a joint Task Force consisting of several agencies began an operation to clear an activist encampment in the forest.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), while clearing the encampment, “officers located a man inside a tent in the woods. Officers gave verbal commands to the man who did not comply and shot a Georgia State Patrol Trooper.”
They allege that, at that point, police opened fire, killing Teran.
In a statement, the GBI said that transaction records show that Teran legally purchased the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm handgun. They also stated that forensic ballistic analysis matched the bullet in the officer to Teran’s handgun.
Police claimed “mortar style fireworks, multiple edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks, and a blow torch were recovered” at the encampment.
Officers Not Wearing Body Cameras
According to the GBI, “officers who were near the incident at the time of shooting were not wearing body-worn cameras.
“Although the shooting is not captured on bodycam, there is bodycam footage of the aftermath.”
In an article by the Guardian, a half-dozen other protesters who were in the forest at the time have said that “one single series of shots” were heard.
Manuel’s mother Belkis Terán stated, “I will go to the US to defend Manuel’s memory … I’m convinced that he was assassinated in cold blood.”
She went on to say, “I’m going to clear Manuel’s name. They killed him … like they tear down trees in the forest – a forest Manuel loved with passion.”
In a statement, Atlanta Press Collective said Manuel was, “a very kind person. They were always willing to help and take care people in need around them, especially the QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Intersex, People of colour) community. They were always attentive to others needs and offer always the best of them. A truly warriors for the forest and the people! I miss them so much.”
According to professor of history at Northwestern University, Keith Woodhouse, “killings of environmental activists by the state are depressingly common in other countries, like Brazil, Honduras, Nigeria. But this has never happened in the US.”
Seven other activists were arrested on the day of the GBI raid. They were charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass, among other charges.