The proposed project has the support of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, along with outgoing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and incoming Mayor Andre Dickens.
“They will be given the most up-to-date training, not to serve as warriors in our community but to serve as guardians in our communities,” Bottoms said the day the project was approved. The council at one point attempted to remove the possibility of a citizen advisory group, but that line item was added back in.
In a press statement from Community Movement Builders, Jamal Taylor, the organizer of a march against Cop City in October, said the facility isn’t just a training center for police—it’s “a war base.”
“Police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill Black people and control our bodies and movements. The facility includes shooting ranges, plans for bomb testing, and will practice tear gas deployment. They are practicing how to make sure poor and working-class people stay in line. So when the police kill us in the streets again, as they did to Rayshard Brooks in 2020, they can control our protests and community response to how they continually murder our people,” Taylor said.
Environmentalists are outraged as the land sits within the South River Forest, known as one of the “lungs of Atlanta.” It’s an area recognized for its extensive tree canopy, which if destroyed could leave the surrounding areas susceptible to stormwater flooding and represents the city’s best hope for mitigating the impacts of impending climate change.
APF has had the good fortune of being able to count on support from the local media outlet Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the paper’s owner, Cox Enterprises, along with its CEO/President Alex Taylor. It also is supported by Verizon, Equifax, Delta, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Loudermilk Family Foundation, and others.
From the start, The Appeal reports that Cop City’s development has been a stealthy process by Bottoms. The advisory board is made up exclusively of police and fire department chiefs, heads of foundations, and city employees, without any members of the community.
Despite an outcry in Atlanta to reform its policing policies after the murder of George Floyd, the protests that followed, and the police brutality cases directly involving protestors, the city has done the opposite of defunding.
The department paid bonuses to the officers who staged a sick-out after Officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with aggravated assault when a video showed him kicking Rayshard Brooks while he was on the ground after being shot last June. And APD’s budget has increased 7% from 2020. Additionally, officers who were publicly charged in the police brutality cases against Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim, and the shooting death of Brooks, have all since been rehired by the force—with back pay.
“We’re talking about spending millions of taxpayer dollars to fund another failed proposal that will only line the pockets of wealthy people and not actually address the issues of our day,” James Woodall, a policy associate with Southern Center for Human Rights, told Atlanta CW-19. “City council members have even admitted that this will not impact crime,” he added.
The site of the future training facility also has a horrifically violent and racist history.
The land originally belonged to the Muscogee “Creek” peoples before it was stolen in the 1800s through the Indian Removal Act.
The Creeks, along with Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Seminoles, who are referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes,” were forcibly relocated to areas west of the Mississippi. Thousands of Native Americans died during their forced migration.
The land was then converted to a slave plantation and later to a federal prison labor site before it was sold to the city of Atlanta, where it was then used for forced agricultural labor by incarcerated people from 1920 to the 1980s, according to The Appeal.
The lease on the land was authorized by the council for $10 a year.
Organizers of “Stop Cop City” have called on the Muscogee community leaders to help them in their efforts.
In November, leaders from Alabama, Oklahoma, and Georgia gathered for a traditional stomp dance ceremony event.
“One of the things that I hope is that this would just be the first step of a migration of our indigenous communities coming back to their homelands,” Rev. Chebon Kernell, of the Native American Comprehensive Plan and Helvpe Ceremonial Grounds, told The Mainline in an interview. “My hope is that together, as we foster this migration back to recognizing our homelands, that also we can educate the public at large, and say, ‘We want a healthier society. We want a safer society for all of our people, especially for our communities of color who have been displaced in so many different ways’ … We’re hoping that we start with recognizing indigenous peoples, but then we also recognize the intersectionality that takes place with just having the right to exist.”
After a stunning report done by Color of Change, Coca-Cola ended its funding to Cop City and stepped down from APF’s board of trustees.
A press release from Color of Change reads that the study identifies the “acute threat that police foundations pose to Black and brown communities and democracy.”
Color of Change President Rashad Robinson told Mainline: “Corporations bankroll police foundations, and then police foundations use that support to attack common-sense reforms, spread misinformation about reformers, and defend the most outdated, violent, and racially biased practices of police officers.” Adding: “Only cutting ties with police foundations will show that corporate leaders are serious about protecting Black lives.”
Just before Christmas Eve, police raided a growing protest encampment set up in the Atlanta forest.
Atlanta city officials are planning to break ground in early 2022.