Amid Protests, Officials OK Funding for 'Cop City'

Atlanta City Council approves tens of millions to build training center for police, firefighters
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 6, 2023 9:00 AM CDT
Amid Protests, Officials OK Funding for 'Cop City'
Hundreds of people gather at Atlanta's City Hall on Monday to speak ahead of a City Council vote over whether to approve tens of millions in public funding for the construction of a proposed police and firefighter training center that activists decry as "Cop City."   (AP Photo/R.J. Rico)

The Atlanta City Council early Tuesday approved funding for the construction of a proposed police and firefighter training center, rejecting the pleas of hundreds of activists who packed City Hall and spoke for hours in fierce opposition to the project they decry as "Cop City." The 11-4 vote just after 5am is a significant victory for Mayor Andre Dickens, who has made the $90 million project a large part of his first term in office, despite significant pushback against the effort, per the AP. The City Council also passed a resolution requesting two seats on the Atlanta Police Foundation's board. The decentralized "Stop Cop City" movement has galvanized protesters from across the US, especially in the wake of the January fatal police shooting of Manuel Paez Teran, a 26-year-old environmental activist known as "Tortuguita" who'd been camping in the woods near the site of the proposed project in DeKalb County.

City officials say the new 85-acre campus would replace inadequate training facilities and would help address difficulties in hiring and retaining police officers that worsened after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice three years ago. But opponents, who've been joined by activists from around the nation, say they fear it will lead to greater militarization of the police and that its construction will exacerbate environmental damage. Protesters had been camping at the site since at least last year, and police say they've caused damage and attacked law enforcement officers and others. Councilmembers agreed to approve $31 million in public funds for the site's construction, as well as a provision that requires the city to pay $36 million—$1.2 million a year over 30 years—for using the facility.

The rest of the $90 million project will come from private donations to the Atlanta Police Foundation, though city officials had, until recently, repeatedly said that the public obligation would only be $31 million. The training center was approved by the City Council in September 2021 but required an additional vote for more funding. A small handful voiced support before the vote, saying they trusted Dickens' judgment, but for about 14 hours, residents took to the podium to slam the project, saying it would be a gross misuse of public funds to build the huge facility in a large urban forest in a poor, majority-Black area. "We're here pleading our case to a government that has been unresponsive, if not hostile, to an unprecedented movement in our City Council's history," said Matthew Johnson, the executive director of Beloved Community Ministries, a local social justice nonprofit.

(More Atlanta stories.)

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