Atlanta City Council sentenced much of DeKalb County to environmental devastation on September 8, all in the name of building the massive police training facility dubbed Cop City by activists and Atlantans. Now the mayor and the police celebrate their most recent infrastructure.
The history of the new training complex has begun in April 2021, when the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) published his first set of shots. After briefly tabling the concept in mid-August in response to public outcry, the Council finally pass this this month. The extent to which Cop City has or has not had majority support among Atlanta residents remains unclear, but the environmental and political failures of council members have paved the way for a destructive expansion of the power of the police.
After months of controversial, Board members vote 10-4 in favor of building the $ 90 million firefighter and police training center. The current plan will be to preserve more than half of the 381 acre property either as green space or public park space. However, its weapons testing and training facilities have serious negative consequences for the safety of the local environment. While the ordinance may have passed, it could poison residents’ food and water, exacerbate environmental racism, and worsen relations between Atlanta police, city council and residents.
The only ray of hope has been the tremendous efforts of local community members, activists and organizers who have rallied against the Town Hall and the APF. As members of the greater Atlanta community, Emory students should not only understand the nuances of this historic issue, but should also be involved in the rally against the board members who made this happen.
The future home of the facility is 381 acres of land and one of the last remaining large, undeveloped plots of land within I-285. According to the most recent published plans, its explosives test site and firing range will be Sit near a planned urban farm and a local creek known as Intrenchment Creek.
A firing range means lead bullets could be lost in the woods, which is particularly dangerous given that the Environmental Protection Agency advises against the construction of shooting ranges near water sources. In fact, public data on water quality indicated that Intrenchment Creek, which connects to many other waterways in the south, already carries dangerous amounts of heavy metals, likely because of the two existing APF ranges nearby. As a result, lead, metals and other chemicals found in ammunition could poison residents.
Another reason for strong opposition versus Cop City is the expansion of police power and the allocation of resources to law enforcement, despite public opinion moving away from police power. The city’s insane commitment to using corporate sponsors to fund these projects only further testifies to its contempt for systemic racism in Atlanta. However, this is not the first time: the APF has a history of over-policing and purchasing equipment to monitor innocent citizens, allocate $ 2.3 million in tax funds in Operation Shield, the city-wide surveillance network. Cop City serves no purpose other than to beef up the surveillance system and instill unnecessary fear in the people of Atlanta.
Police and city council members supporting Cop City have actively escalated tensions with the community. In response to a minor peaceful protest outside the home of council member Natalyn Archibong, Atlanta police responded with crushing presence and arrests. Use of force demonstrates the reluctance of the Atlanta City Council and Police Department to respond to activist efforts and swift deference to violence – the central issue underlying the development of Cop City .
In addition, the APF and the city council intentionally disseminated misleading information about Cop City to the community. Recently, the Chief Operating Officer of the City of Atlanta Jon keen was tasked with forming an advisory board made up of community members and partners. However, a report by Mainline Zine, an Atlanta-based labor press, show that the ‘Recommendations report from the Public Security Training Center‘does not list any members of the community. Instead, it includes members of the APD, APF, the Atlanta Fire Department, and various people from the Department of Business and Asset Management and the Department of Law. Obviously, the Atlanta government only cares about trumpeting community comments, not listening to them. Despite 17 Hours of public commentary, much of which highlighted opposition to the construction of Cop City, the local government and law enforcement agencies were not discouraged.
The facility should not be built at all. Environmental concerns aside, ODA has never needed $ 30 million in public funds for a glorified playground. The expanding law enforcement footprint in the region runs counter to a longstanding agitation against police brutality and dishonours the memory of its many victims. The city council could have opposed systemic racism in Atlanta, but ten of its members chose to entrench it instead. Cities in the United States, let alone a predominantly black city like Atlanta, need less police presence, less police funding, and less police worship. But now that the construction of Cop City is almost assured, what can we do?
First, members of the Emory community should visit the area. See for yourself what the city is ready to destroy for a police training center. If you want to get more involved, volunteer with local activist organizations, such as Defend the Atlanta Forest, is another great way to hold lawmakers to account. We are part of the fabric of this city and we need to understand the ramifications of such decisions. Now is the time to break the Emory bubble and help our Atlanta community.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of Wheel’s editorial board. The Editorial Board is made up of Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Sara Khan, Martin Li, Sophia Ling, Demetrios Mammas, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas and Leah Woldai.