The city of Atlanta has approved funding for a controversial new police training facility dubbed “Cop City” by opponents.
The 11-4 vote came on Tuesday after hundreds of activists packed City Hall and spoke out for hours in fierce opposition to the plan, which they say will destroy the local environment and militarize police .
For about 14 hours, locals took to the podium to criticize the $90million project, saying it would be a poor use of public funds to build the massive facility in a large urban forest in a poor, majority-black area. from Southeast Atlanta.
Six hours into the meeting, Sara McClintock, a professor of religion at Emory University, took to the podium and pleaded with council members to reject, or at least rethink, the training center.
“We don’t want it,” McClintock said. “We don’t want it because it doesn’t contribute to life. It is not an institution of peace. This is not a way forward for our city that we love.
The Atlanta City Council has approved funding for a new police training center referred to as “Cop City” by opponents. Hundreds of activists packed City Hall on Tuesday ahead of the vote
Opponents of the project say it would be a poor use of public funds to build the huge facility in a large urban forest in a poor, majority black area
For about 14 hours, the inhabitants again and again climbed the podium to slam the project
Demonstrators gather in the atrium of Atlanta City Hall to protest the planned police training center
Still, council members agreed to approve $31 million in public funds to build the site, along with a provision requiring the city to pay $36 million – $1.2 million a year over 30 years. – for the use of the facility.
The rest of the funding for the project would come from private donations to the Atlanta Police Foundation.
The project has faced heated opposition since its announcement, with the decentralized “Stop Cop City” movement galvanizing protesters across the country, particularly following the fatal police shooting in January of activist Manuel Paez Terán. 26 year old known as ‘Tortuguita’ who had camped in the woods of the proposed project.
In a sign of safety concerns on Monday, dozens of police were stationed throughout City Hall and officials temporarily added “liquids, sprays, gels, creams and pastes” to the list of things prohibited from entering. inside the building.
The heavily guarded vote came following the arrest on Wednesday of three organizers who run the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provided bail and helped find lawyers for arrested protesters.
Prosecutors charged the three activists with money laundering and charity fraud, saying they used some of the money to fund violent acts by “forest defenders”. The warrants cite reimbursements for expenses including “gasoline, forest cleanup, bins, rapid Covid-19 tests, media, traffic signs.”
Mayor Andre Dickens said the passage of the budget resolution “marks an important step in better preparing our firefighters, police and emergency responders to protect and serve our communities.”
He added that “Atlanta will be a national model of police reform with the most progressive training and curriculum in the nation.”
The training center was approved by city council in September 2021 but required an additional vote for more funding.
Protesters gather outside Atlanta City Hall ahead of a council vote on approving public funding for the construction of a proposed police and fire training center
Activist groups are protesting the construction of an 85-acre police training center to be built in the forests southeast of Atlanta, Georgia.
A Bank of America office spray painted by activists in response to plans to build a huge police training center in Atlanta
City officials say the new 85-acre campus would replace inadequate training facilities and help address police hiring and retention challenges that have worsened after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice. three years ago.
But opponents, who have been joined by activists across the country, say they fear it will lead to further militarization of the police and that its construction will worsen environmental damage.
Protesters had been camping at the site for at least the past year, and police said they caused damage and attacked law enforcement officers and others.
Numerous instances of violence and vandalism have been linked to the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement, including a January protest in downtown Atlanta in which a police cruiser was set on fire, as well as an attack in March during which more than 150 masked protesters chased the police away. at the construction site and burning equipment before fleeing and blending into the crowd at a nearby music festival.
Those two cases have led to more than 40 people being charged with domestic terrorism, although prosecutors have so far struggled to prove that many of those arrested were in fact those who took part in the violence.
Additionally, activists have smashed windows and damaged offices across the United States as part of an ongoing protest against the proposal to build the training facility in a forest outside Atlanta.
Members of the Stop Cop City movement have claimed vandalism in 19 states over the past nine months, targeting companies including Amazon, Porsche and Wells Fargo.
The group said it targets businesses based on their affiliation with the Atlanta Police Foundation and the proposed facility known as Cop City.