The Atlanta City Council is expected to vote on Tuesday to decide the fate of a controversial proposal to convert an old prison farm into a police training facility. Dubbed “cop city” by local organizers and some community members are making a last push to get the council to vote no on the proposal.
Women on the Rise, an organization committed to the political empowerment of formerly incarcerated women, asks residents to call the council public comment line on Monday 4-7 p.m. ET. As the city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 7, the window for public comment fell on Labor Day.
Last month city council scaled back the proposed effort, changing the set aside for the Atlanta Police Foundation’s project from 150 acres to 85 acres. Known as the old Atlanta prison farm, the site is approximately 380-acres of forest owned by the city of Atlanta. And while the training facility proposal includes a large set aside for public space, many residents are not impressed.
Public opposition has been consistent since the proposal was first exposed. A recent survey of over 300 residents near the proposed site showed an overwhelming majority did not want the training facility built in their community.
James Woodall, a policy associate with the Southern Center for Human Rights, told Atlanta’s CBS affiliate that the project has nothing to do with addressing issues impacting the city.
“We’re talking about spending millions of taxpayer dollars to fund another failed proposal that will only line the pockets of wealthy people and not actually address the issues of our day,” Woodall told CBS Atlanta. “City council members have even admitted that this will not impact crime.”
Opposition to the project has brought together an interesting collective of groups, including those with an environmental focus, neighborhood associations wanting to protect green space, and police accountability groups. Several southeast Atlanta neighborhood associations put out statements opposing the project.
Groups held a rally Friday to try to pressure corporate donors to pull funding from the project. Coca-Cola is one of several corporations involved in this project along with Delta, UPS, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s parent company Cox Enterprises. Journalist Aja Arnold, the founding editor of the Atlanta-based Mainline, wrote a deep dive on the project last month for The Intercept.
In that article, Arnold pointed out that the proposed Atlanta facility is approximately four times the size of the site used by the LAPD and close to three times the size of the site used by the NYPD. Both departments have much larger police departments than Atlanta. Arnold and the team at the Mainline have been following the story closely, reporting on environmental considerations of the plan, such as the disruption to the ecosystem and possible damage to the site and nearby river.
Speaking with NewsOne, attorney and organizer Kamau Franklin said the city had justified the rush to approve the project because of alleged concern for increased crime.
“The same corporate sponsors who last year during the George Floyd uprising and the Reshard Brooks uprising here, were talking about how Black Lives Matter and how it is important for the Black community to take the lead and talk about issues of police violence,” explained Franklin. “A year later, we’re at this space with the same institutions and organizations that are either donating money or raising money for this facility.”
He also rejected the idea that boosting officer morale was a valid justification for moving forward with the project.
“What about the morale of the community at hand?” questioned Franklin. “And since they refused to do any legitimate public hearings, they did not know that the vast majority of people, or they knew. and did not want to hear that the vast majority of people will be against something like this.”