Understanding "Cop City" and What it Could Mean for You

Written by: Teona White

Yesterday, September 7th, 5 activists chained themselves to a bulldozer at the cop city site to halt construction on the multi-million dollar facility that will be used to train police officers and firefighters. This demonstration coming only two days after Georgia officials announced they will be indicting 61 people associated with โ€œStop Cop Cityโ€ with racketeering (or RICO) charges in connection to the movement.ย 

To fully understand how we got here in the โ€œStop Cop Cityโ€ movement we must first understand what is cop city, why officials feel we need it, and why there is opposition to it being built.

So what is โ€œCop Cityโ€? Atlanta city council voted 10-4 in 2021 to authorize the $90 million dollar project that is now known by the public as โ€œCop Cityโ€. In the proposal for โ€œCop Cityโ€ it included building classrooms, shooting ranges, a driving course(for practicing high speed chases), a pastureland for police horses, as well as a โ€œmock-city for real world training for police officers and firefighters. Officials have said the facilities that are available currently for officers are outdated and they are in need for an upgrade. Also, with the new facility officials are hoping it encourages more citizens to join the force.

โ€œCop cityโ€ plans to use at least 86 acres of land to build this massive training facility. The land cop city is occupying used to be a prison farm. In 2017, the land was a key part of a city design plan to create green space and recreation options for an underserved part of Atlanta. The city council approved this plan!ย 

However, four years later this piece of land was leased to The Atlanta Police Foundation signed off by then mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms after being introduced by city councilwoman Joyce Sheperd. The Atlanta Police Foundation is an independent nonprofit whoโ€™s aim is to modernize cityโ€™s police forces and improve technology. There are similar foundations around the United States. They began showing up after September 11th 2001, because people felt we needed more homeland security.ย 

The financial contributions for cop city come directly from some of the largest companies around Atlanta like Coca-Cola, Target, Chik-Fil-A, Wells Fargo and more. Many of the executives of these big name companies also sit on the board for The Atlanta Police Foundation.

The opposition to the facility is not only because the officials went back on their word to create a recreation space for the underserved, which citizens are rightfully mad about, but the troubling response from officials and police force to anyone who opposed the facility. Environmentalist, neighborhood groups, as well as police abolitionist have come together to voice their disdain with the facility only to be met with violence, mass arrests, and trumped up charges.

In June 2021, there was 3 hours and 41 minutes of public comments that opposed cop city. That same day peaceful protesters showed up to Sheppard house chanting โ€œNo Cop City! Keep Atlanta Greenโ€! To which they were met with police and arrested.

September 2021, there was 17 hours of public comment, 70% of those comments opposed cop city. This ignored by our city officials and voted 10-4 to continue construction for cop city.

โ€œDefend Atlanta Forest โ€œ has been the main group opposed to cop city and have been consistently vocal about it. Since 2021 environmental protesters in Atlanta have been beaten, pepper sprayed, arrested, and even killed for defending the trees!ย 

In January 2023, Manuel Esteban Paez Terรกn, known by friends as Tortuguitsa, was killed by Georgia State Patrol. Police claimed they had a gun and cops were only defending themselves. Not only did other protesters vouch for Tortuguitsa saying they did not have a weapon but the autopsy showed evidence they had their hands up and there was no gun residue on their hands! Also upon GSP initially reporting Tortuguitsa was shot 13-15 times their autopsy showed they were shot 57 times! 57 Times! Rest In Power Tortuguitsa!

In March 2023, a group of individuals set some construction equipment in the cop city site on fire. About half a mile into the forest a music festival to promote saving the trees was happening. Cops raided the festival and arrested as many as they could. Wether they were involved in the fire or not. 35 people were detained and 23 were charged with domestic terrorism.ย 

From this, warrants were put out for those running the Atlanta solidarity fund! Swat raided their Edgewood home and arrested Marlon Scott Kautz, Savannah D. Patterson, and Adele MacLean. After extreme lack of evidence for the โ€œmoney launderingโ€ charge the activists were released on $15,000 bond.ย 

Around 43% of cops who would be at the training facility would be recruited from out of state.ย 

Any opposition to Cop City has been met with violence and letโ€™s call it exactly what it is, fascism.The response by officials who are supposed to work for the people has been disgusting to the point that citizens are losing trust in those who are supposed to listen to us. Itโ€™s a threat to what we call democracy. Also, sends a clear message that the people in charge could care less about what we think or what we want.ย 

So what can we do?ย 

There have been an overwhelming amount of people collecting signatures for petitions around the city. They have over 100,000 which is all they needed! Now we wait to see if officials give us the option to go and vote on this in the ballots in November!ย 

Donโ€™t let them take your voice away!ย 

Keep staying on their necks.

Theses officials work for us not the other way around.