A flower blooms for Palestine – Mondoweiss

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The spoken word poem “There are Flowers Blooming in Antarctica,” shared on TikTok by user Madii.sky.blu, speaks of the modern-day man-made horrors that confront us. It highlights the contradictions of witnessing flowers bloom in Antarctica—a reminder of climate change and impending collapse—amidst governmental apathy along with grim reality of observing genocide in Palestine.

The resonating words “there are flowers blooming in Antarctica” echo Palestine’s struggle for liberation, a battle not confined geographically, reverberates globally, its ripples reaching the verdant forests of Atlanta, Georgia.

The term ‘terrorism’ is a category of power wielded in the United States and Israel to delegitimize protest and resistance, a tool to justify the silencing of voices and the repression of activists in Atlanta as well as Palestine. Moreover, this piece unravels the web woven between the Democratic Party, local and national, and its symbiotic ties with the Atlanta Police Foundation, itself interlaced with the Israeli Defense Forces. This is not a fanciful story of connections but a revelation of the entangled roots of political dynamics, unveiling the underlying truths that govern our lives – both in Palestine and the U.S. South.

In the heart of Atlanta, a decentralized environmental movement known as “Stop Cop City,” also known as Block Cop City, or Defend the Atlanta Forest (DTF), coalesced around 2021. This collective struggle sought to stop the construction of the dystopian police training facility equipped with an urban warfare training playground known as the Orwellian-sounding Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a modern hellscape proposed by the Atlanta Police Foundation and the City itself that was likely modeled on IDF training facilities. Nestled on the grounds of the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, a site that was formerly a plantation built on stolen Muskogee land, this looming edifice stirred unrest, a monument of increased police militarization shadowing a primarily Black neighborhood with a rich history yet burdened by poverty with obvious undertones of environmental racism.

Just as illegal Israeli settlements, the stolen land is a witness to historical atrocities, with at least nineteen unmarked pauper graves of slaves unaccounted for, marked for construction following the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, souls lost to police violence, igniting flames of concern from monied elites following the riots. Against this backdrop, the suppression of the Stop Cop City movement, a synchronic and uniform categorization from state actors, both conservative and liberal, of movement participants as “terrorists,” culminated in what has been mourned as a “state-sanctioned execution.” In this tragedy, a young environmental activist who took on the forest nom-de-guerre of Tortuguita, just 26, Indigenous, queer, non-binary, and an ecological and community activist, was executed by the police. Their life was abruptly severed by Georgia’s state troopers on January 18, 2023. For context, I personally heard the shots fired from my home near the forest – a sound that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Activists hold sign at a Stop Cop City protest in Atlanta, GA on November 17, 2023 remembering the activist Tortuguita who was killed by police in January. (Photo: Twitter/RootsAction)
Activists hold sign at a Stop Cop City protest in Atlanta, GA on November 17, 2023 remembering the activist Tortuguita who was killed by police in January. (Photo: Twitter/RootsAction)

The political machinations of the Democratic Party stand complicit in the shadows of Palestine’s ongoing genocide. ‘Genocide Joe’ echoes the rhetoric of the Israeli Defense Forces on the national stage, while local democrats sound a chorus of endorsement for the construction of Cop City, aligning with the fascist undertones of state governance; Marjorie Taylor Greene is a notable exemplar.

Yet, this insidious dance of power and corruption extends into the very heart of the local Democratic Party. In Atlanta, a procession of mayors – Kasim Reed, Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Andre Dickens. Reed’s tenure, a master class in corruption, is punctuated by the indictment of his chief of staff, Mitzi Bickers, now a prisoner of federal penance, who was entangled in land dealings with the Atlanta Police Foundation. According to a lawsuit, Calvin Darden, a former UPS Executive and board member of the Atlanta Police Foundation, sued ER Mitchell, ER Mitchell Construction, Mitzi Bickers, and Chateau Land. This indicates some involvement of Mitzi Bickers in real estate dealings linked to a board member of the Atlanta Police Foundation​​.

Keisha Lance Bottoms served as a chair of the Atlanta City Council during Kasim Reed’s tenure as mayor. Her role in the city council overlapped with Reed’s mayoral term, which provided her with experience and insight into the city’s governance under Reed’s leadership. Similarly, Andre Dickens served as the chair of the Atlanta City Council under Keisha Lance Bottoms. 

Keisha Lance Bottoms, a former mayor of Atlanta and a significant figure in local politics, was nominated by President Joe Biden as vice chair of civic engagement and voter protection for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for 2021–2025. This appointment followed her term as the 60th mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, from 2018 to 2022. Before her mayoral role, Bottoms was a member of the Atlanta City Council, representing a part of Southwest Atlanta. She chose not to run for a second term as mayor and later joined the Biden administration as a senior advisor and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, serving until February 2023​​.

Why is Andre Dickens so hellbent on the construction of Cop City, and how is that linked to the ongoing genocide in Palestine? This connection comes through the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, a joint initiative of Georgia State University and various law enforcement and public safety agencies focused on enhancing law enforcement executive development and international cooperation. Established in 1992, initially to bolster security for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, GILEE has since concentrated on anti-terrorism training and homeland security efforts, particularly after the September 11 attacks. For more context, as an activist on college campuses, friends of mine were called out as “terrorists” by a state senator for protesting the IDF being on our campus. Being called a terrorist by state functionaries is unnerving, but this stochastic terrorism only compounded and manifested in the death of Tortuguita. 

Rodney Bryant, who served as the Acting Chief of the Atlanta Police Department, participated in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program. His involvement in GILEE, as indicated on the program’s website, shows a direct connection between a high-ranking member of the Atlanta Police Department and the GILEE program. This suggests that there is at least some level of participation or interaction between members of the Atlanta Police Foundation and the GILEE program, given that high-ranking police officials are often involved in or have connections with such foundations​​. The program aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of U.S. law enforcement leaders by exposing them to diverse policing practices and strategies employed by the Israeli Police Force, a part of Israel’s security apparatus, along with the IDF.

It’s understood the construction of Cop City is intertwined with the IDF as a training facility, especially considering leaked open records admitting the Atlanta Police Department (APD) is conducting training exercises combating supposed “Hamas terrorists” in Atlanta. Equally plausible is the notion that Andre Dickens has been enticed with the prospect of a prestigious position within the Democratic Party for his cooperation. In Georgia, a chorus of agreement unites Dickens across partisan lines with Governor Brian Kemp and figures like Marjory Taylor Greene, echoing a disturbing narrative: protestors are terrorists, warranting harsh suppression.

Local Democratic players’ ambitions woven into their actions are intricately linked with the Atlanta Police Foundation through lucrative land transactions. Their motives transcend mere financial gain, aiming for a higher prize—ascension to the national political stage, propelled by promises whispered from the corridors of power within Genocide Joe’s administration.

Cop City, envisioned as a crucible for training IDF forces, is a testament to a chilling exchange program. The narrative spun around protestors, branding them as terrorists, is a page directly lifted from the IDF’s strategic manual. This labeling, convenient yet calamitous, has led to the tragic demise of a protester and the intensification of political repression. In Atlanta, over 60 individuals have been ensnared and charged with racketeering – some for the simple act of distributing flyers, others for merely partaking in a music festival. I bore witness to this festival, a firsthand observer of the harrowing scenes of police exerting their might, knees pressed upon the necks of those detained.

This struggle is a local plight and echoes a larger truth: the fight for Palestine mirrors a global quest for emancipation. The fleshy tendrils of power stretch from Israel and monied bigots to local and national Democrats, all complicit in furthering the objectives of Israeli death squads. This sinister alliance has borne fruit in the United States, mirroring the tragic fate of protestors in Palestine.

In this light, the liberation of Palestine transcends geographical boundaries, becoming synonymous with the liberation of the U.S. South, a shared struggle for freedom and justice in the face of overwhelming odds. The liberation of Palestine is also the liberation of the South. There are flowers blooming in Antarctica, yet flowers also bloom in our hearts: a flower in remembrance of Tortuguita, flowers for the healers of Gaza, a flower for Palestine.

At Mondoweiss, we understand the power of telling Palestinian stories. For 17 years, we have pushed back when the mainstream media published lies or echoed politicians’ hateful rhetoric. Now, Palestinian voices are more important than ever.

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