On Tuesday, Atlanta City Council voted to approve funding for the construction of an 85-acre police and firefighter training center, which has been coined “Cop City” by the project’s opposition.
Despite heavy opposition and pushback from city activists, the $90 million project passed with an 11-4 City Council vote. A resolution requesting two seats on the Atlanta Police Foundation’s board was also passed as a part of the vote.
The massive police training facility, which was approved by City Council in September 2021, will be located in a majority-Black area of DeKalb County and is a major concern for activists who say the project is a gross misuse of funds and could lead to greater militarization of the cops who police Black and brown faces.
“We’re here pleading our case to a government that has been unresponsive, if not hostile, to an unprecedented movement in our City Council’s history,” Matthew Johnson, the executive director of Beloved Community Ministries, a local social justice nonprofit, told AP. “We’re here to stop environmental racism and the militarization of the police. … We need to go back to meeting the basic needs rather than using police as the sole solution to all of our social problems.”
The vote is a notable win for Mayor Andre Dickens and his supporters. Among the money allocated for the project, $31 million has been approved for the site’s construction, while $36 million will go to the city; $1.2 million a year over 30 years for using the facility. The remaining amount for the project will come from private donations to the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Since plans to build “Cop City” were announced in 2021, massive protests have erupted in response to the project.
In January, massive protests erupted in Downtown Atlanta in response to plans for the new police training facility and the shooting death of a local activist earlier this week. Several protesters were arrested.
Just days before January’s protests, 26-year-old environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was gunned down near the site of the approved facility. The shooting occurred during a clearing operation and protesters have been camping out in the area to halt construction.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Teran, described by others as a “forest defender” fighting against environmental racism, didn’t comply with law enforcement’s commands to leave. Instead, Teran allegedly shot a Georgia state trooper. Officers returned fire, fatally wounding Teran, who died at the scene.
Despite all the pushback, the “Cop City” project is on its way to becoming a reality which continues to concern community activists.
“We don’t want it, Emory University religion professor Sara McClintock said to councilmembers during the vote. “We don’t want it because it doesn’t contribute to life. It’s not an institution of peace. It’s not a way forward for our city that we love.”
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