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Jun 29, 23

Report from Day Three and Four of the Defend the Atlanta Forest Week of Action

What follows is the third and fourth report in a series of daily dispatches from a comrade who is attending the Weelaunee Summer Week of Action (June 24-July 1) in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally posted to Living and Fighting.

photo: Unicorn Riot

The morning began with a trip to South Bend Commons for a pop-up coffee shop. The SBC is an autonomous space in the Atlanta area that hosts a variety of social events and community-based projects. There’s a radical lending library featuring anarchist literature, zines, a print space, a kitchen, and an arcade machine of questionable functionality. The black-and-white checkered tile floors suggest a possible previous life as a diner or pizzeria. The space passed near-convincingly as a real café–from the din of conversation to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee–for the few hours we spent there visiting with friends and acquaintances.

In the evening, we found ourselves back at Brownwood Park for a talk on movement history and a film screening of Lizzie Borden’s 1983 revolutionary classic Born in Flames. The attempted police intimidation seen on Saturday had largely retreated. Cruisers still rolled by, our enemies keen to make their presence known. But in the subsequent days, there hasn’t been a repeat of Saturday’s events. The movement undeterred, the park has closed each night without event.

A new rhythm is developing around this week of action. More and more people continue to trickle into town: some have experience with previous weeks of action while for others, this is their first time being a part of this movement. Together, they’re finding ways to make the week come together, to learn from one another, to keep the heart of this movement beating and propel it forward. Yet, as this happens, there’s a palpable underlying tension and yearning: This place is not Weelaunee. The zone to be defended is elsewhere.

The Weelaunee Forest–the central physical space of the Stop Cop City campaign, where previous weeks of action took place–is held hostage by a heavy police presence. One of the sacrifices made as the movement crested it’s last wave was the temporary loss of that contested zone. Now, the movement is seeking a tactical pivot that reminds us that this struggle transcends just one physical space. Still, this doesn’t quell the longing for the forest where we have all experienced so much unmitigated collective joy and seen so much bravery.

“The forest is everywhere, but does that necessarily mean we’ve found it?”

What I see in the cups of coffee made by and shared with friends, the passionate discussions, and the late-night movie screenings is this search for the forest-beyond-the-forest.

This is the fourth entry in a series of daily dispatches from a comrade who is attending the Weelaunee Summer Week of Action (June 24-July 1) in Atlanta, Georgia.

I spent much of today sitting in Brownwood Park with a rotating cast of friends, both new and old, catching up and reminiscing on shared memories, our families, and the places we come from. As night enveloped the park, welcomed by cicada songs and the gentle dance of fireflies, I sat with a dear friend and we discussed their place in the movement, thoughts on the week of action, and the things that brought them here. What follows is that conversation.

Living and Fighting: In lieu of an introduction I thought it would be good to start with a question: what is your relationship to the movement?

I’ve been physically involved in the movement for a little more than a year now. I’ve traveled back and forth to Atlanta to participate as I’ve had the ability to do that. Socially, I have a lot of close relationships with people who are also participating in the movement. I feel very deeply emotionally tied and interwoven with it.

Living and Fighting: What are your motivations for coming to the week of action?

First of all, I’m just so happy to be back here with my friends and with the forest, even though we haven’t really been able to get into it. That’s one of the primary motivations that keeps me coming back here–the deepening of those relationships–but also in this particular phase of the movement and the place we find ourselves strategically, it feels very important to be present here. It feels important to be part of and contribute to this moment of holding on as we’re perhaps entering into this slower and lower phase of conflict. To ensure that things are able to continue through this movement feels very important to me.

Living and Fighting: What does it mean for you to be part of this movement? How has this movement impacted you on a more personal and emotional level?

Particularly in the past weeks of action–when we’ve been able to interrupt our daily lives to live in the forest together, contributing communally to this ongoing struggle–it’s really given me the gift of that interruption and that chance to see how life could be lived differently. Not that it can be there immediately, but to start to negotiate with each other and gesture toward this other way of living which hopefully will be a much bigger part of our lives as we go forward. On a personal level, it’s given me this really wonderful opportunity to deepen a lot of the friendships I have with people in Atlanta and elsewhere, to build and strengthen those [friendships] which [have] changed my life in the day-to-day significantly. And, of course, to deepen my relationship with the land here, because this region and ecology is the place that has been home for me but that I was not able to get to know really deeply when I was here. To come back with this different lens of looking at it and a lot of new people to guide me through it and introduce me to it has definitely deepened that relationship, and that’s been very satisfying and meaningful.

Living and Fighting: What do you feel is at the core of the movement?

In a word: communion. A key part of any ecological struggle is [that] it requires this openness to the other, to the outsider, and the courage of saying, “This is the way we’re gonna live together. We’re gonna live together with these creatures that are stunningly different from us. We’re gonna find this meaningful middle ground.”  That’s something this movement has insisted on again and again. On a strategic level there’s been an insistence on not having any kind of definition or any sort of official organization of the movement. It’s brought together these very disparate people and groups and given us a chance to find a way to live together and to be in common. Just the physical experience of being out here and having to live in common like this and having to figure out how to share food, it’s both a gift and a challenge. Now we’ve shown you that this is the world we want, this world in common. In common with each other, in common with the trees and the fucking snakes and rocks and rivers. And now we’re gonna give each other the opportunity to figure out together how we actually make that real.

There’s a lot of movements that don’t have that tenor even if they seem to be fighting for this world in common or seem aligned with us. Often there’s movements where there’s a bunch of individual participants all fighting for their own interests or the interests they’re given by authority. When I’ve participated in those movements I never really felt this opportunity to broaden myself or to be together with others. I think that this movement has been stunningly different.

Living and Fighting: What are your hopes and/or fears for the remainder of this week of action?

The best case scenario is that we occupy the forest and kick out all the police or whatever, but practically I don’t expect that to happen in a week. So what feels important to me as far as hope is continuing to establish a very vocal and open presence of the movement and continuing to draw people in. To say we’re doing things that are visible, doing things that are confrontational and you are welcome! I hope we continue to have this quiet infrastructure, and networks that can grow and leverage as the strategic terrain becomes more favorable.

My fear is that the movement is at this place where it can be captured and controlled. Right now the discussion of where we’re at has shifted so much to legal strategies. It’s shifted to going to city council meetings and signing this petition. All of those things are reasonable to do I think, I’m not telling anyone not to do them, particularly because the focus of this struggle is, again, this sort of preparatory thing. We’re trying to weaken their infrastructure so at a time of greater revolutionary swell–which could happen tomorrow–we will be in a more favorable position. Our enemies will be weaker. And if a referendum or a city council meeting gets that done, that’s not a bad thing. But I also think [about] the opportunity we have for people to glimpse this life in common which is waiting for us, knocking at our door. That opportunity is extremely powerful, and if we go back to focusing on these “good citizen” actions we might get a particular goal accomplished but we’re not really going to fundamentally change ourselves or each other in the way I think this movement has the deep potential to. I hope we can keep that in sight. That’s really my fear, that [defending the Weelaunee Forest] will just become another goal to achieve instead of this process of collective becoming and transformation.

Living and Fighting: Anything else on your mind that you want to express?

Oh hell, anything else on my mind? There’s a fucking lot on my mind. I saw three snakes yesterday. That’s been a goal of mine coming out here is to see a lot of snakes. Still didn’t run into any cottonmouths, which is the one I was really hoping for.

I gotta give a shoutout to Carniceria El Progreso here in Atlanta. Lord help me I’m telling y’all to support a small business but its fuckin’ bangin. It’s so good! I miss being in the forest. I miss camping. Being in this really crowded house is nice in its own way, but I would far rather be outdoors. It kinda sucks in its own way as well. Everyone go make a forest playlist and post it in the comments. Are there gonna be comments on this one?

There will be Twitter replies and stuff.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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A multiplicity of fragments from the so-called Southwest.

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