BY BILL TALEN | The Church of Stop Shopping is working with “1000 People 1000 Trees” in a continuing resistance to the city chainsaws in East River Park, which have downed 500 trees so far. A vigil by 100 of us took place in the park on Fri., Jan. 27, remembering the Tortuguita, the forest protector assassinated in his tent on the 18th in the Weelaunee Forest outside Atlanta, Georgia.
Our own JPMorgan Chase, through a “police foundation,” is razing the Weelaunee to make way for the nation’s largest training facility for police, derisively called “Cop City” by the mostly Black residents who live around the 90-acre pine and oak forest.
On Jan. 18, the Atlanta police shot and killed the 26-year-old Earth defender, whose given name was Manuel Teran, a nonbinary person of Venezuelan heritage. Tortuguita was part of a tent community resisting harassment by Atlanta police.
The superintendent called the campers “domestic terrorists.” No body cams or dash cams were turned on and explanations by police have been vague and shifting. Vigils are taking place throughout the world for Tortuguita, which means “little tortoise.” The Republican governor, upping the fear campaign, has declared a “state of emergency.”
Cop City will offer dormitories and a movie theater, a “mock village” to rehearse raids, a driving course to practice chases and special-explosives training. It would be the largest police boot camp / school in the U.S. and it is a formal step into cult-like isolation from nonpolice, like Scientology with loaded guns.
A financial supporter of this militarizing boot camp is the New York celebrity banker Jamie Dimon, C.E.O. of Chase Bank. He presents a liberal image, but Chase is the top bankroller of fossil fuel projects of the American banks and gave $4 million to the New York City Police Foundation during Occupy Wall Street in 2011. John Richert, Chase Bank’s head of regional investment banking, serves on the board of the Atlanta Police Foundation, a key Cop City funder. Cop City’s project budget is put at $90 million.
With the armored riot police lurking in the shadows of the pine and oak forest like a guerrilla war, there is a “We dare you to question us” quality to the way police are handling the tragic event. There seems to be an open reinstatement of the secrecy of the thin blue line. And the assassination of Tortuguita will now forever be the founding gesture of this “School of the Americas” turned inward. Maybe they like that. They act as if they have the right to the land and to the lives of the defenders of the forest.
This open killing of this earth defender takes places as we mourn new police victims on a daily basis, Tyre Nichols to the Scorpion cops in Memphis, Keenan Anderson, disoriented, tasered and soon dead from a heart attack, Anthony Lowe, Jr., a double amputee shot while sitting in his wheelchair.
In the case of Tortuguita in the Weelaunee Forest, he wasn’t just up against trigger-happy cops, he was faced with the power of a New York big bank. The Church of Stop Shopping invites you to our “Occupy Chase, the Radical Lunch in a Tent,” a nonviolent sing-along while camping inside the Rockefeller Center Chase Bank on Fridays, from noon to 1 p.m. These are easy-to-learn gospel songs with radical Earth lyrics. No violence of any kind, only love, as we convert the executives, tellers, security people and customers… . Earthalujah! Contact senior church officials to join us: Revbilly@revbillly.com.
Talen’s activist and performance persona is Reverend Billy. You can see him Sundays at the East Village’s Earth Church.