ATLANTA —The ACLU of Georgia has resigned from its involvement with the South River Forest and Public Safety Training Center Community Task Force. The decision follows the closed-door policy of the Task Force’s first meeting, and the release of an autopsy report from the DeKalb County Coroner that provided more details in the fatal shooting of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who was known as Tortuguita.
Policy and Advocacy Director Christopher Bruce joined the Task Force hoping to increase the level of transparency surrounding the training center and to protect protesters, exercising their First Amendment rights. The ACLU of Georgia is disappointed by the lack of commitment to transparency in providing media and citizen access to the meetings of the Task Force and its subgroups.
“The ACLU of Georgia’s priority is protecting the First Amendment rights of protesters and legal observers,” said Bruce. “With the closed-door policy of Wednesday’s meeting and the report months after Tortuguita’s death, showing that police struck them with more than 50 bullets, I have lost faith in trying to increase transparency through the task force and echo our original demand to stop building the training facility.”
Additionally, the ACLU of Georgia has opposed the leveling of domestic terrorism charges against protesters, as an over-criminalization of demonstrators under a constitutionally dubious statute. The ACLU of Georgia will continue its fight from 2017 of fighting domestic terrorism charges and championing government transparency.