Last Thursday anarchists in Atlanta and around the country held memorials for Manuel Paez Terán aka Tortuguita on the one year anniversary of his death. It’s Going Down an anarchist website labeled it “Day of the Forest Defender.” Events were scheduled in Seattle, Portland, Boise, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Atlanta and about a dozen other cities.
Most of these protests/vigils appear to have been fairly small scale. Here are some photos of a vigil in Berkeley.
— Mama Lisa (@LisTeague) January 19, 2024
As has been the case since he died, his comrades refer to this as a “murder” or an “assassination.”
— feminist_collages_ nyc (@CollagesNyc) January 19, 2024
DAY OF THE FOREST DEFENDER
January 18th is the anniversary of the assassination of Tortuguita, a queer, Indigenous forest defender who was shot 57 times while seated in their tent with their hands up.
We will never stop telling your story!
— People’s City Council – Los Angeles (@PplsCityCouncil) January 18, 2024
Day of the Forest Defender
Join us tonight for a live stream from the NYC memorial and teach-in honoring Tortuguita on the eve of the first anniversary of their murder.
— Haymarket Books (@haymarketbooks) January 17, 2024
None of this fits with the actual record of what happened but that clearly doesn’t matter to the activists trying to make him into a martyr.
— The Truth Telling Project (@TruthTellersUSA) January 18, 2024
And along with that effort that have been dozens of misleading stories at various news sites which offer misleading accounts of what happened to him. Here’s the latest example from the Guardian.
Police killed Tortuguita 18 January of last year while the activist was sleeping in a forested public park south-east of Atlanta, in protest against the building of a police and fire department training center nearby known as “Cop City”. It was the first such incident in US history…
Tortuguita was one of less than two dozen activists camped last year in Intrenchment Creek Park, about a mile from the City of Atlanta-owned Cop City site, as part of an attempt to defend the forest from the training center project and from plans to turn over part of the park to a private developer.
The number of “forest defenders” had been greatly reduced in the weeks before the January raid carried out by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, due in part to a previous raid in December, and to the winter weather. Georgia state troopers came upon Tortuguita’s tent and wound up shooting at least 14 bullets, leaving 57 gunshot wounds and killing Paez Terán almost instantly, according to government and private autopsies.
The state subsequently claimed that the activist fired a gun, and concluded in early October that the Georgia state troopers who killed Tortuguita were not at fault.
What an intentionally misleading mess. First of all, Terán was not killed while he was sleeping as this account suggests. He was told by police to leave his tent and he verbally refused. More to the point, Georgia troopers did not wind up shooting him, they shot him after he opened fire with his own gun, hitting one of the troopers below his vest and sending him to the hospital. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation produced paperwork showing that Terán had legally purchased the gun and other “Forest Defenders” have gone on record saying they knew he had the gun with him in the forest prior to the shooting. Also, a fact that routinely gets left out of these stories is that bullet taken from the injured Trooper’s body matched Terán’s gun. Obviously none of that fits with the idea that Terán was murdered or assassinated. If you fire a gun at police and hit one of them what happens next isn’t on them it’s on you.
“If the cops kill me, I want you to riot, burn down their stations and set their cars alight. Know that I went out fighting and ask we all could have peace and be free,” Teran wrote.
Then, “If the cops kill me I want you to riot, to kill as many of them as you can. They are terrorists. They keep us all subjugated . . . I think they should all quit their jobs or die. I would love to live a long and peaceful life but I do not fear violence.”…
An entry in September 2022 read, “I made the accounts knowing the risk and I do not regret it. Even if the FBI assassinates me, it will have been worth it. I have helped people and will hopefully inspire others to do more mutual aid without getting assassinated. My exit strategy is to keep resisting fascism, ecocide and the damn capitalist heteropatriarchy.”
Four pages later comes the passage, “Killing cops is okay! Killing people is generally a bad thing. Fascists and cops count as people but killing them is morally and ethically just because they are threats to the survival of many people. . . Dead cops! Dead cops everywhere.”
His final entry in the journal, written about four weeks before he died, said, “I hope every judge, kkkop and bootlicker dies painfully and is remembered as scum.” His hatred of the police seems pretty relevant when looking at his actions on Jan. 18, 2023.
And yet, the anarchists who hate the police as much as he did are eager to make him into a peace-loving hero and that means not telling the truth about who he was or what he did. Here’s a bit of the memorial in the Atlanta Park where Terán died.
Happening now: memorial for Tortuguita, slain “forest defender,” in Atlanta: pic.twitter.com/aFay7wdXmm
— Timothy Pratt (@TimothyJPratt) January 18, 2024
Here’s more of the song if you’re interested. Like the leftist news reports about his death, the song also leaves out the fact that Tortuguita shot first.
So Grows the Flame (The Ballad of Tortuguita) by Matt Rivers
Full song is here https://t.co/qQtS1uptG6
Tortuguita vive, la lucha sigue. pic.twitter.com/wJT3mYz0AY
— Stop Cop City 🇵🇸 (@seanmc_99) September 17, 2023