The murder last month of a non-binary activist known as “Little Turtle,” who was shot during an occupancy protest in Atlanta’s South River Forest, marked the first police killing of a protester in the history of the US environmental movement.

Police entered the forest on January 18 after months of tension with the activists, who had camped in the area. Tortuguita was shot and seven others were arrested. It was the second police raid resulting in arrests in about a month.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has said that Baby Turtle shot and wounded a state trooper before officers returned fire. No body camera footage of the shooting is available, according to the office.

Lawyers for the Tortuguita family, whose full name is Manuel Esteban Páez Terán, They are challenging the police account of the shooting and say the GBI has not responded to family questions about the shooting.

“We have contacted them through all the channels we have available. We have had no response, no offer to share information with the family,” Jeff Filipovits, an Atlanta-area civil rights attorney, said in an interview. «They want to know what happened to their son.»

Occupy protests have been a staple of environmental activism for decades, but the one in Atlanta was different. Where the police had often been the go-between in previous protests, in Atlanta they acted as opponents whose self-interest, a development project for a police complex, was a central part of the protest.

«There’s a long history of law enforcement taking on direct-action environmental activists and those confrontations turned hostile,» said Keith Woodhouse, an assistant professor at Northwestern University who wrote a book on radical environmental activism. «The big difference is that one of these activists was shot and killed, and I think that’s unprecedented in the United States.»

And in the age of modern protest, more and more often environmentalists who may have once been narrowly focused or separated from other movements now find themselves in the middle of a much broader web of social problems.

“The issue of surveillance in the United States, the militarization of police forces, Black Lives Matter, all of those issues are related to protecting this forest for these activists,” Woodhouse said.