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What is Cop City?
Cop City is a label given by activists against the proposed police and fire department training facility, Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a planned mega campus for training in Atlanta, Georgia that would include a mock city, shooting range, classrooms, and other facilities with estimated construction costs of approximately $90 million.
The controversial project has faced strong opposition from activists, community members, and civil rights groups who argue that it would promote militarized policing, harm the environment, and waste public funds. Proponents of the project claim that it would improve public safety, enhance police-community relations, and provide opportunities for community engagement.
A Brief History of Police Brutality, Over-policing vs Crime Prevention
Police brutality is the use of excessive or unnecessary force by police officers against civilians. It can take various forms, such as physical violence, verbal abuse, sexual assault, racial profiling, false arrest, or wrongful death. Police brutality has a long and tragic history in the United States, especially against Black people and other people of color.
Cop City is reminiscent of social issues surrounding how not to police for the greater effort of stopping crime with good enforcement through fair justice, humane treatment, and protection for all equivocally, regardless of race or cultural differences.
Stop Cop City Solidarity Campaign
The nationwide “Stop Cop City” Solidarity Campaign is centered around preserving the Weelaunee Forest, the center’s intended site, and decreasing the likelihood of unfair over-policing. The campaign seeks to pressure project supporters and institutions, rallying against it through protests, petitions, calls, and boycotts.
On January 18, 2023, police killed a forest defender named Tortuguita, who had been organizing tirelessly to stop Cop City, which escalated the issue.
On May 8, 2023, the Center for Constitutional Rights supported Stop Cop City activists facing state violence, defending their communities and resources. They also celebrated a lawsuit dismissal against the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) for BDS movement support.
View recent development news below.
Hip Hop Caucus Contribution and Support
The Hip Hop Caucus has previously made waves by spreading awareness about important social issues and hosting advocacy events like a community cookout in Milwaukee, launching its Respect My Vote! campaign. This event in particular, featuring local artists and speakers, addressed police brutality, environmental justice, and voting rights. Samuel Edgerton, a speaker, shared his 1963 March on Washington experience and urged action against Cop City.
On June 30, 2023, the Hip Hop Caucus hosted a community town hall event and photoshoot to raise awareness about Cop City in Atlanta and to collect qualified signatures for a November 2023 ballot referendum in an effort to Stop Cop City in Atlanta.
- “The town hall discussion highlighted the city of Atlanta’s history of over-policing, particularly in Black communities, and the environmental pollution that would result from cutting down acres of the Weelaunee Forest to build Cop City”
- “Activists needed to secure 70,000 signatures by August 15, 2023 in order to add the referendum to the November 2023 Atlanta ballot.”
On July 13, 2023, both sides in the “Vote to Stop Cop City” lawsuit stated their cases and teased bigger battles in a hearing before the federal judge, with city/state attorneys deeming the campaign invalid and organizers asserting their constitutional right to challenge leasing public land for Cop City.
Stop Cop City Recent Development News
On July 27, 2023, a federal judge extended the deadline to gather 70,000+ signatures for a vote on “Cop City” construction in Atlanta. The city’s requirement for resident signature collectors was deemed unlawful, allowing nonresidents to join the effort. The new deadline was set for late September.
On August 29, 2023, protestors previously charged and others totaling 61 protestors, were indicted on RICO charges, only weeks after, former President Donald Trump and defendants were charged using the same statute. Republican Attorney, General Chris Carr, alleged that “61 defendants together have conspired to prevent the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center by conducting, coordinating and organizing acts of violence, intimidation and property destruction.”
Events leading to Stop Cop City:
Resistance against Cop City began in 2020 when then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta Police Foundation proposed the project. Key events include:
- June 2020: Protesters marched demanding to defund the police and cancel Cop City.
- Oct 2020: Activists occupied Weelaunee Forest to prevent construction, honoring Tortuguita.
- Jan 2021: Police raided Tortuga Village, fatally shooting Tortuguita, sparking outrage.
- Mar 2021: Dozens arrested for attacking construction site; police termed it a coordinated attack.
- May 2021: Nationwide solidarity actions targeted Cop City supporters; alternatives discussed.
- Jul 2021: Activists disrupted events attended by Mayor Bottoms, voicing opposition.
Atlanta Public Safety Training Center (Supporters’ Perspective):
Benefits from Supporters’ Perspective:
- Enhances morale, recruitment, and training for police and fire personnel.
- Sets community engagement standards and fosters collaboration among agencies.
- Provides public spaces, educational opportunities, and economic benefits.
- Aims to improve public safety and police-community relations.
- Atlanta Police Foundation, main developer and operator.
- Atlanta Police and Fire Rescue Departments, primary beneficiaries.
- Atlanta City Council approved the lease agreement.
- Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, initially hesitant, later endorsed it.
- Businesses, civic groups, faith leaders, and residents advocating improved public safety.
Supporters seek police reform amid incidents of brutality and misconduct, aiming to regain public trust. They aim to address challenges faced by personnel and engage with the community, prioritizing transparency and accountability.
Announced in June 2020 by Mayor Bottoms and the Atlanta Police Foundation.
- Leases 265 acres of city-owned land in DeKalb County for 50 years at a nominal fee.
- The foundation constructs and operates a modern training center on 85 acres, preserving the rest.
- Project cost: $90 million funded by private donors.
- The first phase is expected to open in late 2023.
Against Training Facility – “Cop City Atlanta” (Opponents’ View):
Cons from Opposing Perspective:
- Promotes militarized policing, leading to aggression, violence, and discrimination.
- Harms the environment by destroying Weelaunee Forest, impacting wildlife and public health.
- Wastes public funds, diverting resources from essential needs like education and healthcare.
- Excludes community from decision-making, ignoring concerns of those affected by police misconduct.
- Stop Cop City Coalition, aiming to pressure project supporters and institutions.
- Defenders of Weelaunee Forest (Tortuga Village) who occupied the forest.
- Civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the city and foundation.
- Black celebrities, community leaders, and civic groups opposed the project’s impact.
Opponents seek to protect marginalized communities and demand accountability for police violence. They emphasize dialogue, nonviolence, and democracy.
Stop Cop City Coalition and forest defenders proposed canceling lease agreements, defunding militarized police training, preserving the forest, and investing in community-led initiatives. They demand police reform, including ending chokeholds, qualified immunity, and creating oversight boards.
In the Middle – “Police Reform” Perspective:
- Seek evidence of how the facility benefits public safety and police-community relations.
- Emphasize non-militarized training with de-escalation, cultural sensitivity, and community engagement.
- Question the need for large-scale budgets and funding sources for the facility.
Who Are The Celebrity Activists Joining the Campaign?
Some of the Black celebrities who have joined the Stop Cop City campaign or asked for police reform include:
Porsha Williams, a reality TV star and social justice advocate, has called for a “complete police reform.” She said, “I want the system to be completely changed,”
Actor and artist Dawn Richard tweeted on July 6: “There is so much they don’t want US to be aware of. Make sure you’re paying attention. #StopCopCity.”
— DAWN (@DawnRichard) July 6, 2023
Actor Kendrick Sampson, most known for her role in HBO’s Insecure, has attended Black Lives Matter protests and was hit by rubber bullets at a Los Angeles protest.
Other notable supporters include Queen YoNasDa, Diandra Marizet, Aura Vasquez, Kristy Drutman, and Kevin Patel.