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Activists use Tu B’shvat to raise money for protesters against Atlanta’s Cop City

Opponents say the planned $90 million training facility will destroy a forested area and increasingly militarize police

Activists protesting what has become known as Atlanta’s “Cop City” are getting support via Tu B’shvat Seders and fundraisers across the United States.

The protests center around a planned $90 million training facility that would serve Atlanta’s police and fire departments, as well as other departments from around the country. Opponents have said the facility, which will include a mock village and firing range, will only help continue the trend of police militarization. They have also objected to the facility’s location, which will necessitate the destruction of a forested area. Some activists have camped out in the forest in an attempt to stop construction.

Protesters built a sukkah in the Georgia forest where protesters have gathered against the planned “Cop City.” Photo by Cindy Milstein

Cindy Milstein, a New York-based longtime anarchist and ecological activist, visited the site in October and said Jewish activists held Shabbat ceremonies and constructed a sukkah while she was there.

Now, Milstein is raising funds to help those who remain on the ground, calling on Jews and others to celebrate Tu B’shvat as a “ritual of resistance, honoring trees and those fighting to #StopCopCity.”

“(Since) there’s already been ritual of resistance and ritual of solidarity going on within this struggle in Atlanta, it makes sense to tie it to this holiday about trees,” she told the Forward.

Photo courtesy of Cindy Milstein. Photo by Cindy Milstein

The protests have grown more tense as police action has escalated. On Jan. 18, a 26-year-old protester who called themselves Tortuguita was fatally shot by police. That same day, a police officer was hospitalized after being shot in the abdomen. More than a dozen people have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, which some legal experts have called politically motivated overreach. The funds raised by Milstein are primarily going to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provides “support for people who are arrested at protests, or otherwise prosecuted for their movement involvement,” with some money also going to help Tortuguita’s family and pay for funeral costs. 

Milstein said she became aware of the conflict through other Jewish anarchists who have been involved in opposing the facility from the beginning. The city approved construction in 2021 despite widespread opposition during public hearings.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has defended the site, saying that the facility will take up 85 acres while another 300 will be preserved for green space. He has also said the training facility is necessary for police readiness in a city where murders have risen for three consecutive years.

In other parts of the country, Jews are using the holiday as launching points for their own efforts to support their comrades in Georgia. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a Tu B’shvat Seder is planned and a maker of herbal products is holding a raffle fundraiser. 

Sol Weiss, a visual artist and land-based educator in California’s Bay Area, is raffling off prints and posters to support the cause. So far, they’ve raised $1,700 for the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. Weiss said that although the protest against Cop City is not inherently Jewish, it has ties to many timeless Judaic themes.

The Tu B’shvat fundraisers are “an entry, it’s like a gateway for people who already possess these values that maybe are not as aware of different struggles going on in anti-police brutality, anti-forest clearing movements,” Weiss said. “It’s a space to make it relevant to a lot of people who might not otherwise be aware of it.”

“It really resonates with the themes of this particular holiday,” added Milstein, noting a “long, long history within Judaism” of “a spiritual connection and our understanding of the Earth, trying to do the least harm we can.”

Tu B’shvat begins the evening of Sunday, Feb. 5, and ends the following evening.

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