Media outlets keep promoting 'forest defenders' and ignoring that they shot a police officer

I really believed that once the facts of this story came out it would be over. There was some room for questioning the story of what happened in the forest south of Atlanta initially. Police told one story and protesters told another.


According to police, they entered the forest to clear out protesters who are trespassing and preventing construction of an approved project. They found one man under a tent. They asked him to come out and instead he fired a gun and hit a Georgia State Trooper in the abdomen. The trooper was taken to a hospital for emergency surgery. The protester who fired the shot was killed by police.

The alternative story pushed by protesters and their supporters is that the victim had been unarmed and “murdered” by police. The trooper who was shot? They strongly suggested he might have been hit by friendly fire.

Since then the official police version of events has been confirmed by evidence and the protesters’ version has fallen apart. First, police released a photo of the gun found at the scene. Later they revealed the gun had been matched to the bullet removed from the trooper’s body. And in what should have been the final straw for the protesters’ version of events, police revealed that Manuel Esteban Paez Teran aka Tortuguita had purchased the gun in question in September 2020. It was his gun and with that the police version of events is conclusively found to be the real one.

And yet, progressive news sites continue to promote the forest defenders as if none of that mattered. It’s a surreal thing to witness. Take, for instance this story at Vice titled “Atlanta Activists at ‘Stop Cop City’ Aren’t Backing Down After Police Kill Protester.”


The movement to stop the construction of a controversial police training facility in Atlanta gained international attention this past week, after sweeps of forest protest encampments resulted in dozens of arrests, terrorism charges, and the police killing of an activist.

Members of Atlanta’s burgeoning “Stop Cop City” movement were rattled after Georgia state police shot and killed Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, a 26-year-old queer environmental activist who had joined the protest encampment in Atlanta’s South River Forest. But the activists—some of whom were arrested and are now facing domestic terrorism charges and excessively high bail amounts—are showing no signs of backing down.

Notice what’s not mentioned in the headline or the opening paragraphs. That isn’t mentioned until paragraph six of the story and only then to be discounted.

The shooting occurred last week after Georgia State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies entered the South River Forest to conduct a SWAT operation to clear forest encampments, part of the police’s escalating tactics to stifle the growing movement. Police say Teran refused to exit a tent and shot at the state troopers first—a claim that has been fiercely contested by protesters who knew Teran and were present during the sweep.

And that’s it. This story which was published today makes no mention of the gun, the ballistics or the fact that Tortuguita bought the gun used to shoot the officer. It’s as if it isn’t relevant to the story they are telling.


Here’s another example. This one from the Daily Show which sent Roy Wood Jr. to meet the “forest defenders” and aired a report this week. His visit to Atlanta apparently happened before the shooting but the report itself aired afterwards. So, for instance, this clip opens with news coverage of the violent march in Atlanta which took place days after the shooting.

At one point, Wood even makes a joke by asking one of the protesters where the “gun training station” is located within their camp. He’s emphasizing their peaceful nature. And the Daily Show left this in even after a member of this group shot a cop and put him in the hospital requiring two surgeries.

At the very end of this clip, there’s a brief acknowledgement in the narration of the shooting: “Since my visit to the Atlanta forest, police raids and arrests have only been more frequent, culminating in last week’s shooting.” While he’s saying that this is what appears on screen:

That quote in the headline of a Guardian story comes from Tortuguita’s mother who was in Peru and who had no information about the shooting. The Daily Show chose to present this as a cold-blooded murder when the evidence suggests self-defense. Here’s the full clip which the protest group is now happily tweeting out today.

The worst coverage I’ve seen comes from Truthout. Their description of what happened is actively and carefully hostile to the truth. Here’s how the shooting is introduced:


On January 18, according to the Atlanta Community Press Collective, “Dozens of heavily armed DeKalb Police, Atlanta Police and Georgia State police shut down Weelaunee People’s Park and nearby streets before entering the tree line with guns drawn and heavy machinery poised to continue forest destruction.” Forest defenders reported hearing a rapid succession of gunshots around 9 a.m. Tree sitters were targeted with pepperballs and activists on the ground were chased by police dogs. A forest defender who remained anonymous for safety reasons told Democracy Now!, “These defenders had to hide and flee for their lives, all the while with the nauseating knowing that their dear comrade had been murdered in the sacred land that we call home.”

They not only quote someone calling this a murder, they completely omit any mention of the wounded trooper. That leads to an interview with Micah Herskind, an Atlanta activist. Here’s his description of what happened.

what we do know is essentially on the morning of January 18th, a joint police task force led what they called a clearing operation in the Weelaunee Forest, which is the proposed site for basically destruction of that forest land and the creation of a massive police training facility in southeast Atlanta. During the raid, we know that police, Georgia State troopers shot and killed a forest offender. And at the same time a cop was also shot non-fatality and taken to the hospital where they were treated and they’re stable. That police raid continued throughout the day and police arrested, I believe around eight more forest defenders, many of whom were charged with domestic terrorism charges…Of course the cop narrative is that they were shot at and they returned fire in self-defense. But that narrative has actually changed multiple times already. So first they said they were ambushed out of nowhere with gunfire and an officer was non-fatality shot.

And then shortly after they said they were actually in conversation with the forest defender and gave the forest defender verbal commands, and then they were fired at and returned the fire. Throughout all of this, now, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said that there’s no body camera footage available, that PSP troopers don’t wear body cameras, and they’ve also refused to release the names of any of the officers involved. And so that’s the official narrative that’s already changed a couple times. Whereas on the other hand, reports from sort of on the ground that have been already covered by media have suggested the possibility of accidental friendly fire, so cops accidentally shooting each other and that would not be the first time that happened in Atlanta. So a lot of the details are unclear. What is clear is that Georgia Police shot and killed someone who was trying to stop the construction of Cop City in Atlanta.


Again, this story was published today so there’s actually a lot more that is definitively known at this point, i.e. the gun, the ballistics, the purchase, all of which Herskind fails to mention for obvious reasons.

As for the narrative changing, it really hasn’t. GBI Director Michael Register said, “An individual, without warning, shot a Georgia State Patrol trooper. Other law enforcement personnel returned fire in self-defense and evacuated the trooper to a safe area.” About five minutes later, a reporter asked Register to describe the situation in more detail and he said, “An individual confronted law enforcement and I don’t think that he was seen until he fired, I’m not sure.” The next day the police released a statement which read:

At about 9:00 a.m. today, as law enforcement was moving through the property, 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. Other law enforcement officers returned fire, hitting the man. Law enforcement evacuated the Trooper to a safe area. The man died on scene.

So GBI Director Register wasn’t aware that troopers had given verbal commands prior to the shooting and that’s the extent of the difference, i.e. something he explicitly said he wasn’t sure about. Later on, Herskind says that even if the police turn out to be telling the truth it doesn’t matter:

Cops lie all the time. We should be prepared for anything that they say in the wake of the shooting to be a lie. But also we should recognize that even if it turns out that what the cops are saying happened is true in part or in whole or whatever, that doesn’t change the fact that the responsibility and the culpability for this shooting and this death ultimately lies with the police, with the Atlanta City Council, with the Atlanta Mayor…So I think we do also, we need the details and we need the investigation. And also, regardless of the details that come out, we need to recognize that no matter what, the responsibility here lies with the people who are trying to destroy a forest and create a massive police militarization facility.


Well, no, that’s not true at all, actually. There was only one death last Wednesday and that was the one protester who pulled a gun he’d purchased and shot a police trooper with it. Everyone else there that day is still alive. So the reason for loss of life, and in the trooper’s case near loss of life, is entirely the fault of Tortuguita. Had he not fired his gun, no one would have been shot and no one would be dead.

That seems pretty obvious to me but you won’t get any of those inconvenient facts from progressive “news” sites which are still hiding the truth from their readers. It’s surreal to watch it happen.

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