Policing Is an Environmental Justice Issue: In Solidarity with Atlanta and Memphis

Content warning: This piece discusses police brutality, murders by police, and state violence. Please use discretion in reading and sharing. 

Justice Outside grieves in solidarity with the communities of Manuel Esteban Paez “Tortuguita” Terán and Tyre Nichols. We are grateful to them for doing the work of community care and organizing in the face of state violence. We support their ongoing demands for accountability and justice and invite everyone in our communities to take action: 

Tortuguita, a beloved community member and forest defender, was murdered by Georgia state troopers as they were defending the Weelaunee Forest from further destruction meant to make way for a firefighter and police training complex known as “Cop City”, which is widely opposed by local communities. Tyre Nichols, a beloved community member originally from the Bay Area, avid skateboarder, and photographer, was driving back home after taking pictures of sunset at the park when he was detained and murdered by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee. The murders of Tortuguita and Tyre are the most recent in a long history of state sanctioned violence against Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color in the United States. 

Police brutality and state violence are environmental justice issues. However, the silence from many organizations in the environmental field regarding these two acts of violence reflects the equity work that still needs to be done and this is felt deeply by our communities. We are aware of the dangers of silence and complicity and urge our peers and community to be courageous in naming injustice, demanding better, and building solidarity.

We also call on our allies to join the efforts by Muscogee tribal members, land defenders, and activists who continue in their struggle to #StopCopCity. Deforestation and building more structures of state violence will disproportionately impact majority Black communities that live in the area. In addition, the Weelaunee Forest is essential to protecting the city from stormwater flooding and the consequences of global climate change. 

As environmental harm unfolds in East Palestine, Ohio, there is an urgent need for transparency, accountability, and concrete steps on local, state, and national levels to ensure that no more communities are harmed by corporate greed and state violence. In a just world, Tortuguita and Tyre Nichols would be alive and our communities—including the forests, rivers, and all forms of life—would be safe from violence and destruction. That’s what we must all continue to work towards.