Statement: The Sierra Club Georgia Chapter stands with those protecting our forests

The Sierra Club Georgia Chapter is horrified by the killing of an Atlanta forest defender known as Tortuguita (they/them), a queer and nonbinary Indigenous Venezuelan of Timoto-Cuica descent, by state police. We continue to rise in solidarity with the movement to protect the Weelaunee Forest.

We reject the mischaracterization by media and state/city leaders of referring the opposition to this project as “outside agitators.” Thousands of Atlantans and many local organizations, including the Sierra Club Georgia Chapter, came together over the last two years to voice their opposition to this project to Atlanta's Mayor and City Council. They submitted public comments, sent emails to their representatives, organized marches and rallies, canvassed neighborhoods, and more.

Despite these efforts, the Mayor and City Council have continued to push this project forward, ignoring the will of community members and choosing to engage in violence by sending police to harass and arrest those protecting the forest.

Now, a protester who was dedicated to defending a forest that is critical to the health of our communities has been killed.

Shame on our leaders for letting this happen.

The Sierra Club Georgia Chapter remains steadfastly opposed to this project. The Weelaunee Forest helps mitigate flooding, captures and sequesters carbon from the air, provides a natural filter for air pollution, helps keep our city cool, and will aid our efforts to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The Chapter believes that these benefits should not be given up in order to build a training center that is unnecessary and unwanted by the local community.

The project is also an embarrassing waste of taxpayer dollars and public resources, an attempt to appear “tough on crime” to corporate and wealthy interests rather than making meaningful investments in our communities.

The Chapter reiterates its call for Mayor Dickens and City Council to cancel the lease for this project and protect the Weelaunee (South River) Forest. To ensure full accountability to the public, we also call for an independent investigation into the shooting.

Here are some actions you can take to help stop this project right now: 

In solidarity,

Gina Webber
Interim Director
Sierra Club Georgia Chapter

*Note (3/17/2023): This statement has been updated to include additional details about Tortuguita's identity.