The shooting of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán is believed to be the first of environmental defenders killed in the U.S., The Guardian reported.
His killing is the culmination of a dangerous escalation in the criminalization and repression of those who seek to protect natural resources in America, campaigners and experts are warning.
Terán was killed in a forest on the fringes of Atlanta. He was shot and killed by the police. Officers from an assortment of forces swept through the small camp of activists who were defending the urban forest a couple of weeks ago.
Police say Terán shot and injured a Georgia state trooper with a handgun first, but the Georgia bureau of investigation has said the shooting was not recorded on body cameras, prompting calls for an independent investigation.
Campaigners said that his death was the sort of act they assumed would happen soon.
State and local authorities have reacted aggressively to protesters trying to stop 85 acres of the forest being torn down to build a sprawling, state-of-the-art, $90 million police training complex.
The massive police complex has been dubbed “Cop City” by opponents as it will feature a mock city for “tactical” exercises.
Protests had begun in late 2021, after the then-Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, announced plans for the training center. The forest had been named in city plans four years earlier as a key part of efforts to maintain Atlanta’s renowned tree canopy as a buffer against global warming, and to create what would have been the metro area’s largest park.
Nineteen environmental defenders have been charged with felonies under Georgia’s domestic terrorism laws since December.
Authorities have detailed the alleged acts of so-called terror with things such as ‘trespassing’, ‘constructing a campsite’ and ‘sitting in the trees of the woodland’.
The activists were on a 300-acre wedge of land that once contained a prison farm but is now one of the largest urban forests in the United States.