Members of the ACLU, the NAACP and various civil rights organizations are calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to change the way they investigate and classify individuals protesting the controversial Cop City training center in Atlanta.
On July 27, the social and civil justice groups sent a letter to the DHS demanding for the department to change its “domestic violence extremism label” for protestors. They also urged for the agency to review its standards for “collecting and disseminating information” about those involved in the ongoing fight to stop Cop City.
In the letter, which was written to DHS director Alejandro Mayorkas, the organizations argued that the department’s “inadequate” protocols could hurt protestors, particularly those who already come from heavily policed communities.
“These events are the latest example of inadequate DHS protections for people’s constitutional rights as they starkly illustrate the dangers of DHS’s use of vague, overbroad, and stigmatizing terms like “domestic violent extremist” and “militant” to describe individuals who may be engaged in protected First Amendment activity,” the letter read.
The group said that some of DHS’ eye-brow-raising language created a “false narrative that individuals engaged in lawful protest are a national security threat, thus risking heightened aggressive policing of protesters.”
Members of the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Brennan Center for Justice signed off on the lengthy notice Thursday. They said they were outraged by the “concerning arrests and prosecution of individuals” protesting against the massive police training facility. According to The Guardian, nearly 42 people have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges for protesting against Cop City since the project’s inception in 2022. Three arrests occurred in May.
As previously reported, in June, the Atlanta City Council voted to approve funding for the construction of an 85-acre police and firefighter training center, which has been coined “Cop City” by protestors.
Despite heavy opposition and pushback from city activists, the $90 million project passed with an 11-4 City Council vote. A resolution requesting two seats on the Atlanta Police Foundation’s board was also passed as a part of the vote.
The massive training facility will be located in DeKalb County, an area with a large African American population. Protestors worry that the training ground will lead to more hostile policing in the area. They also say it’s a waste of money.
The federal agency classified Cop City protestors as “violent” extremists in a May bulletin post, but a spokesperson from the department told The Guardian in January that they weren’t designating “any groups” under the label.
“The Department of Homeland Security does not classify or designate any groups as domestic violent extremists.” The official claimed that the agency ‘regularly shares information’ regarding perceived threats to the ‘safety and security of all communities.’”
An environmental organization sued the City Of Atlanta this week over Cop City.
On Aug. 1, the South River Watershed Alliance group filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation, the facility’s private planner.
According to court documents obtained by Fox 5 Atlanta, the group is seeking a court injunction to stop sediment runoff from the DeKalb County site until the nearby Intrenchment Creek is capable of absorbing it.
The environmental group, that fights for ecological restoration of the South River, alleged that the foundation and members from the City of Atlanta “began site clearing for the facility without installing the required sediment detention ponds,” the report noted.
“Increased suspended sediment and sedimentation has detrimental effects on fish and macroinvertebrates, including avoidance of sedimented areas, reduced physiological function, reproductive impairment, and mortality,” members from the South River Watershed Alliance argued, according to the lawsuit.
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