This report has been updated with additional information about more arrests.
Seven militants have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism following a deadly shootout with law enforcement at their "autonomous zone" in a wooded area south of Atlanta. They are all from out of state.
On Wednesday morning, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies conducted a raid on the so-called autonomous zone at the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Since June 2021, Antifa and other far-left extremists from across the US have occupied the area to prevent the construction of what they call a "cop city." The GBI says a Georgia State Patrol trooper was shot and severely injured during Wednesday’s raid by a man camped in the area. Officers returned fire and killed the gunman, who allegedly used a pistol.
Georgia’s Department of Public Safety will not name the injured patrol trooper, saying it would "compromise security against criminal or terroristic acts due to retaliation," but told local media he was in the ICU after having emergency surgery. The deceased gunman was named on Thursday by the GBI as 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran. He used the alias "Tort" and "Tortuguita."
"Manuel used they/it pronouns…please make sure we are remembering them properly and respectfully," wrote the Atlanta Community Press Collective in their statement revealing the shooter’s identity.
Deceased autonomous zone gunman Manuel Esteban Paez Teran
Following the shooting, the GBI and its law enforcement partners continued to clear the autonomous zone and several arrests were made of suspects—all of whom are from out of state. The GBI say they confiscated a cache of weapons that include mortar-style fireworks and edged weapons.
Matthew Ernest Macar, 30, Spencer Bernard Liberto, 29, and Sarah Wasilewski, 35, all from Pittsburgh, are each facing charges of domestic terrorism and aggravated assault upon a public safety officer.
A fourth terror suspect who would not identify himself in jail was later identified as 20-year-old Geoffrey D. Parsons, of Baltimore
Domestic terror suspect Sarah Wasilewski
TPM can report that several of the suspects come from well-to-do backgrounds. Shen is an alumna of the Manhattan liberal arts institution Barnard College. Macar graduated with a master’s degree in international affairs from Penn State University in 2016.
Liberto and Wasilewski appear to be in a relationship based on their social media photos and posts. Both have a long history of radical leftist politics. Wasilewski’s Twitter account also shows that she follows Antifa groups and the "@defendatlantaforest" account, which is the main social media group representing the autonomous zone. She also frequently liked posts from the far-left violent extremist Pittsburgh group, Filler Distro. Filler Distro is one of several groups calling for violent retribution against law enforcement over the death of their comrade.Domestic terror suspects Sarah Wasilewski and Spencer Bernard Liberto. Instagram
Filler Distro tweeted a call for "retaliation" against police with further instructions from extremist account "Scenes from the Atlanta Forest." The now-suspended account, which posts blogs from writers at the autonomous zone, wrote: "Consider this a call for reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies. On Friday, January 20th, wherever you are, you are invited to participate in a night of rage in order to honor the memory of our fallen comrade." The post was shared hundreds of times before the account was suspended.
A spokesperson for the GBI told TPM: "We are aware of these threats you mention and are monitoring them, along with our local, state, and federal partners."
The shooting and seven arrests on Wednesday follow another raid last month on the autonomous zone that resulted in six others being charged with domestic terrorism. For months, violence in and around the occupation has escalated. Rioters tried to burn law enforcement officers with firebombs during a raid in May last year and a man who drove into the area in November was nearly burned to death when his vehicle was set on fire.
"It seemed to me like they were going to burn the truck with me in it," Richard Porter told 11Alive News at the time. He was forced to run for his life as his vehicle was torched. In December, two under-construction homes next to the occupation were burned to the ground.
Wednesday’s seven domestic terror suspects are currently being held at the DeKalb County Jail awaiting arraignment. Supporters of the occupation have called for a direct action rally in the Five Points neighborhood in Atlanta on Saturday. On Wednesday night, Antifa in Portland vandalized a children’s play area at a park to express solidarity with their fallen comrade.
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