Activists in Atlanta-area forest resist development dubbed ‘Cop City’

Intrenchment Creek Park Barricade. (Jordan Conway)

For more than a year now, activists have been occupying an area of land just outside Atlanta that is set to become a public safety training center projected to cost upward of $90 million. The activists call the planned center “Cop City” and have clashed with authorities there. A few days ago, a person was killed, the Associated Press reported.

Photographer Jordan Conway recently visited the area and spent time documenting what’s going on from the activists’ perspective. Conway told me he arrived in the forest on his own but was soon welcomed warmly by the people occupying the area.

Here’s more about his time spent there, in his own words:

“The Atlanta forest defense has been a movement that highlights some of the most pressing and deeply troubling issues we all are currently coming to terms with today. It exemplifies the urgency felt by so many to protect our planet from further destruction and collapse. It aims to redefine definitions and perceptions of what constitutes concepts such as ‘violence,’ asking us to understand the violence fundamental to policing, and the inherent irony of destroying a forest to support this violence. It shows us what a community based upon self-autonomy and mutual aid can begin to achieve in an increasingly unsustainable economic landscape.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to use photographs alone as a way to fully represent such challenging and difficult issues. While camping in the forest, I struggled to feel as though I could do justice to the beauty of the Weelaunee forest. …

Once there, I began to lose the sense that I was simply in a place, and more so as though I was intimately part of a place. Reckoning this feeling with the contrast of intermittent gunfire echoing through the trees from the police’s nearby shooting range, or of construction equipment since sabotaged and destroyed sitting vacant and burned, routinely put into perspective the stakes at which the occupiers were faced with.

Those living in tents and tree stands defending the forest see with great clarity the tragedy of destroying one of the last remaining green spaces in Atlanta to build a military and police compound. If there’s anything I can wish to be taken away from my photographs it’s to recognize the fragility and importance of our connection to the land. I hope for the beauty and resilience of the Atlanta forest, and of those who live within it, to come through in my photographs taken while there.”

You can see more of Conway’s work on his website, here.