The Poetry Project

NO COP CITY, YES REAL LIFE: On the movement to defend the Atlanta forest

anonymous forest defender

Typographic flyer from the DTF movement; faded black text on gray paper.


The very things that make our lives tenable are being stolen from us. This is nothing new. Water, food, air, public space, connection and care: it’s all more and more privatized, sold only to those who can afford to pay, and guarded from those who cannot by various agents of the state. We state the obvious when we point out that current trends of skyrocketing rents, escalating campaigns against the houseless in every major city, and the slow replacement of real urban life with a surveilled, digital veneer, are all linked to the mounting wreckage of capitalist ecocide. Our resistance to this death cult, then, might also be as relentlessly interconnected—only more slippery, endlessly responsive, able to dodge security cameras and outraged yuppies alike—the exhortation at the riot to “be like water.”

Enter the movement to Defend the Atlanta Forest, alternately referred to as “Stop Cop City” or “DTF.” The forest in question, known as Weelaunee, is located on ancestral Muscogee land. One of the largest urban green spaces in the country at almost 400 acres, and located in a historically Black neighborhood, this environment is critical to Atlanta’s greater climate resiliency – among other things, it is one of the last breeding grounds for amphibians in the area. Both the Atlanta Police Foundation and Blackhall Studios have plans to decimate this ecosystem, with the former planning a $90 million cop training facility, and the latter endeavoring to build “the largest soundstage complex on Earth” on the remainder of the forest. Lest this interweaving of utter disrespect for the natural world, the continued brutalization of Black and Brown communities by an increasingly militarized police force, and rampant film-industry-fueled gentrification feel a little too on-the-nose for you, you might be unsurprised to learn that the Weelaunee Forest also houses the remains of the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, a forced-labor camp that dates back to the mid-20th century.

As both projects were given the go-ahead by DeKalb county officials despite vast public outcry, activists and community members have been occupying the Weelaunee Forest for almost a year now. Embracing a range of viewpoints and experiences along with a diversity of tactics, this occupation has been sustained by like-minded individuals from around the world, with solidarity demonstrations popping up across the country. In the forest itself, old-school ecodefense strategies like tree sits exist alongside other forms of militancy, autonomous raves, and mutual aid projects. This is to say that not only does the DTF occupation courageously resist the decimation of the natural world, it also proposes alternatives for the type of reality we could be living in, propping a window into some sort of livable future, where there is food for everyone and life is abundant.

Should you feel moved by this brief synopsis to join the struggle, welcome—there are many ways to contribute, from donating or making phone calls to paying a brief (or long!) visit. Although an initial contractor backed out of the project, Atlas Technical Consultants will be attempting to restart construction within the next few months—this is a crucial time to be putting pressure on all parties involved. Remember, the fight is everywhere, and we have nothing left to lose …



#270 – Fall 2022