Let the People Vote on Cop City!

Atlanta City Council

In 2021, the Atlanta City Council voted to approve the lease for Cop City, 381 acres of public land for the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) to construct an $90 million police training facility — equipped with a shooting range, space for weapons and explosions testing, and burning buildings tests. Atlanta offers APF the land at a tremendously discounted price ($10) for the next fifty years. This lease grants a private foundation more resources at a time when Atlantans are struggling to pay their rent and meet basic household needs. This plan not only ignores residents’ demands to reduce the scope and size of policing in Atlanta and invest in more resources in the community instead, but it also underscores City Council's commitment to fulfilling the desires of private organizations over the needs of the people. Additionally, City Council recently delegated an additional $500,000 in funds from the American Rescue Plan to create housing for more police officers through the Atlanta Police Foundation. They are out of step with the desires of the community who badly need relief from the housing crisis, not more cops, and are pushing this project against the interests of the people. In the end, the resolution passed city council 10-4. Oppositional votes included Council Members Ide, Smith, Archibong and Brown, all of which are no longer in office due to running for higher office or retirement. The supporting votes included Council Members Bond, Boone, Westmoreland, Shook, Overstreet, Dickens, Winslow, Matzigkeit, Shepherd, and Hillis. Those in bold are still in office, and Dickens is now Mayor of Atlanta.

The facility is being constructed on a former prison farm, to which incarcerated Black laborers were sold into indentured servitude. Policing and imprisonment represent a continuation of the racist practices the state has used to criminalize, capture, and exploit Black people for free labor throughout history. Further, the APF’s training facility will be supported by the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a committee of over 40 corporate elite figures, including the CEOs of Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Cox. This relationship underscores the ties between policing and capitalist interests, and the Mayor and City Council’s endorsement of this proposal exemplifies their alignment with corporate elites over the working-class people of Atlanta.

98% of local residents oppose the construction of Cop City, and many have been protesting its construction since the project’s very announcement. This included the Forest Defenders who decided to occupy the forest to protect it from being demolished. In response, Atlanta police joined with state police and SWAT teams to violently force these protestors out of the forest. On January 18th, they murdered a protestor, Tortuguita, in cold blood. To this day, it is unclear what happened. The police, backed by the city and state government have worked to conceal the truth of what happened. Bodycam footage of nearby officers suggested that the officer injured during the incident was shot by friendly fire, and an independent autopsy has shown Tortuguita was sitting with their hands up when they were killed. Despite these new revelations that call into question police reports, the police and GBI have yet to respond. Instead, they continue to raid the forest, arrest protestors, charge them with domestic terrorism, and now have closed off access to the public park in the forest. The police state is doubling down to crush any dissent and has murdered an environmental activist, refusing to take responsibility. They are proving they are willing to kill to protect the capitalist class and their property.

After years of uprisings in response to police violence in which Atlanta residents were brutally teargassed, tased, and shot with rubber bullets by APD officers, and now the brutal murder of an environmental activist by the police state, it is disgraceful that the City Council and Mayor intends to offer more physical space and resources with which APD can practice brutalizing residents. True safety in Atlanta will not be attained via increased policing, militarization, and carceral punishment — and it will only be made worse by the construction of cop city!

The Atlanta Mayor and City Council must be held accountable to everyday working class people — not to corporations, developers, or pro-police PR machines like the Atlanta Police Foundation. The City has the responsibility to create the conditions for real safety by providing for people's basic needs — including food security, clean water, housing, public and mental health care, and education. True safety lies in community, and the ways in which we interact with our neighbors, uplift and center marginalized communities, and work together to solve conflict.

The city of Atlanta and Dekalb county both allow for a binding referendum that allows the voters to vote on any measure. This can include a vote on whether to allow the construction of cop city. So, if you are a resident of the City of Atlanta or unincorporated Dekalb County who believes that Atlanta City Council and Dekalb county must put people over private corporations, please sign your name and leave a comment asking the Atlanta City Council to put a referendum on Cop City on the ballot. The people of Atlanta deserve to be safe and be heard!

Sponsored by

To: Atlanta City Council
From: [Your Name]

I am writing to you as a voter and constituent in the City of Atlanta asking you to support a binding referendum on whether to construct the cop training facility known as “Cop City”. If you truly believe that Cop City is in your constituents’ best interest, then allow the people of Atlanta to vote on the measure directly.

Not only has the process to approve and build Cop City been very undemocratic, it underscores the ties that City Council has to the APF and its willingness to prioritize the needs of billionaires over everyday working Atlantans. During a time when people are struggling to put food on the table and pay rent, the last thing this city needs is more space and resources going towards brutalizing Atlanta residents through militarized policing tactics.This facility has no place in our city or the surrounding area, and it certainly does not warrant the bulldozing of a historic forest. Atlanta City Council should be investing in services which promote true safety like affordable housing, food accessibility and healthcare. Long term, policing will solve nothing and only cause more harm towards Atlanta's most marginalized communities.

I am asking you again to support putting a binding referendum on the ballot this November on the construction of a new cop training facility, and to vote against any public funding towards the project until the people have had a say. It is imperative that as an elected official, you listen to your constituents, not the elite corporate class and mega donors.

Thank you