Art by Declan Byrne (Belfast, Ireland); quote by Angela Davis
Mutual aid is your neighbor bringing over a freshly baked blueberry pie because they know you love that kind and they love to bake. It’s the fourteen-year-old down the street who mows the lawn of his elderly neighbor because he likes to do things for people in need. Mutual aid is also the family who just lost everything in a flood and still makes it over to the local supply distribution center in town to volunteer their time to help other families in need. Mutual aid is giving water to those crossing borderlands, dying of thirst, seeking refuge and freedom. Mutual aid is standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with unhoused people who have been violently evicted from their houses, tent cities, park benches, and church steps. Mutual aid has no borders and extends beyond nationality, race, gender, ability, sexuality, creed, political affiliation, and even beyond humanity, to other species and the rest of our non-human relatives. Protecting the waters, the mountains, and the forests is also mutual aid.
These are acts of kindness, compassion, mutual aid, and solidarity.
Mutual aid work is community care. Mutual aid work is the work of love. Mutual aid work is the work of justice. If the government chooses to criminalize this work, it simply proves the government’s inhumanity and irrelevance. Mutual aid is all about people from below looking after each other, because time and time again it has been proven that we cannot rely on large institutions, for-profit businesses, nonprofits, or governments to be there for us in our time of need. Mutual aid is the multitudes meeting the unaddressed needs of their communities. Martin Luther King Jr. describes this interdependence with each other by saying, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
We all drink water. We all breathe air. We all eat food. Among all our other differences, we can unite in the struggle for everyone to have clean drinking water, fresh air to breathe, and plentiful healthy food to eat. We have hope for our collective survival and addressing the profound disasters and crises humanity faces. Our hope is not in politicians or billionaires, but in each other-–in small, simple acts of kindness, compassion, and courage. Mutual Aid Disaster Relief commits to continuing to provide water, food, and other essential humanitarian assistance to people impacted by current and future disasters.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr have irresponsibly and dangerously put out the astonishingly false narrative that mutual aid and solidarity are criminal and nefarious into the public discourse. This seriously endangers billions of people around the world who engage in, benefit from, and survive by simple acts of mutual aid on a daily basis.
This indictment is harmful to people around the country as it seeks to fuel a completely false narrative not only about the nature and history of mutual aid, but about the people who practice mutual aid on a daily basis. This false narrative, if allowed to continue, would only lead to further harm to those seeking to care for each other.
If all the people practicing mutual aid, either those doing it in their everyday lives informally because humans naturally care for one another, or by using the appellation, were forced to cease these highest and most life affirming humanitarian gestures, the end result would be mass starvation, mass illness, and mass death. The resulting alienation of humans from one another would be unimaginable.
Governments continually deny funding for community support such as healthcare, affordable housing, living wage jobs, food, water, and basic safety from gun violence. If elected leaders will not solve the crises we face, the least that government can do is commit to not criminalizing and targeting those of us who do provide wellness services, shelter, food, water, and advocate for peaceful communities.
It is inhumane to criminalize care. Calling movements for mutual aid extremist organizations belies all that these movements do and strive for. The proper and correct description of those who are opposing Cop City and protecting Weelaunee Forest are people with profound integrity, strong moral compass, and high moral character who engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. They are not domestic terrorists.
For nearly two years, the people of Atlanta, concerned about militarization of the local police force and the impact to the local environment, have been organizing through peaceful and lawful means to oppose the construction of this urban warfare complex. At every turn, they have been denied a voice and meaningful, authentic participation. These brave forest protectors have now successfully gathered over 100,000 signatures from Atlanta residents for a city wide referendum to bring forth a vote to stop the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest and cancel this quixotic project.
In this unprecedented time of climate crisis, the construction of Cop City, if allowed to move forward, would destroy 400 acres of forest, of which 85 acres is slated for the development of the Cop City facility. Given that trees have the ability to sequester carbon dioxide and reverse climate chaos, the removal of this forested area is criminal. The local ecology also provides the residents of the community with benefits like recreation and improved air and water quality, as the forest acts as a filter for both.
Mapping Police Violence documented a total of 1,201 people killed by police in 2022. Their analysis is that many of these killings were entirely preventable. Additionally, they report that approximately a quarter (26%) of the people killed were Black people, despite being only 13% of the population. People living in the United States are deeply concerned about the militarization of domestic law enforcement. As a city with a predominantly Black population (48.2% in 2022 according to the U.S. census), Atlanta residents share this concern over the militarization and warfare tactics of law enforcement, including the local police department.
The City of Atlanta should learn from the example of The New York City Police Department, who was forced to change how it responds to protests after reaching a settlement stemming from the department’s violent response to black lives matter protests in 2020. Letitia James, Attorney General for the State of New York stated: “Too often peaceful protesters have been met with force that has harmed innocent New Yorkers simply trying to exercise their rights.”
The State of Georgia has already ruthlessly and without remorse murdered one unarmed, peaceful forest protector: Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita). Mutual Aid Disaster Relief reaffirms that every person has an inalienable right to petition their government for a redress of grievances without fear of intimidation from the police, brutal harm to their physical well-being, government retaliation, repression through court proceedings, or murder.
The United States currently leads the world in police killings and gun violence. This police training compound is bad for Atlanta, bad for its citizens, bad for the environment, bad for the future of our youth, and bad for all the good people of the Earth who want to live in peace and abundance. It also sets a bad precedent for other cities to try and match this example of spending millions of dollars to seek out, harm, and kill people with impunity.
We unequivocally condemn and reject the use of the legal process to target mutual aid volunteers, organizers, and forest protectors for exercising their first amendment protected activities.
We call on the State of Georgia to immediately and publicly retract these false narratives.
We call on the Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams to throw out all spurious and patently false RICO charges maliciously filed against mutual aid volunteers, organizers, and forest protectors.
We also call on the City of Asheville, the City of Houston, and all government entities targeting humanitarian aid workers and volunteers to immediately drop all charges against mutual aid volunteers and immediately cease harassing, targeting, and harming humanitarian volunteers.
In regards to people already imprisoned for engaging in humanitarian aid, we call on people in places of political and judicial power to facilitate their immediate and unconditional release.
We furthermore call on the Atlanta Police Department, its officers, and all associated law enforcement agencies to immediately stand down and refuse unjust, unlawful, and unconstitutional orders targeting mutual aid volunteers, organizers, and forest protectors.
A better world is possible.
Billions of people around the world believe this with all our hearts. Nobody can deprive us of this hope. We are dreaming this better world into being. We stand in love and solidarity with practitioners of mutual aid and community care everywhere.
This political retaliation in response to our work for a better world will never break our will to continue to struggle for humanity, civil society, a more loving world, a more just world, and a world in which many worlds fit.