Opinion: Cop City Must Be Stopped

 Last week, the AJC published an article in which they tried to smear the movement to defend the largest intact forest in Atlanta, Weelaunee Forest, and to stop construction of the largest planned militarized police training facility in the country, known as “Cop City.” Once again failing to disclose their financial ties to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), who want to cut down a minimum of 85 acres of the Weelaunee Forest to build Cop City, the AJC editorial board painted our movement as a small group of violent activists. 

They couldn’t be more wrong. The movement to stop Cop City is massive. It brings together a wide array of communities in Atlanta and across the country, and it cannot be defined by one tactic. 

It’s everyone who has ever gone to a demonstration opposing the project, who has spent time in the forest taking a walk, breaking bread over Shabbat Dinner, or dancing at a Raury concert. 

It’s the preschool children who marched through East Atlanta chanting “don’t cut down the trees.” It’s the journalists who have contributed research to unearth the terrible history of the Old Atlanta Prison Farm. It’s everyone who gathered for the Muscogee (Creek) Stomp Dance in the forest last fall. 

It’s everyone who has ever posted online about the proposed facility, called their city councilmember, written an email to the mayor, or talked about their perspective with a neighbor. It’s the people who submitted 11+ hours of public comment opposing the project to City Council, the people who have been ignored by the government officials and local media who are meant to represent them. 

It’s everyone who understands that “serious harm” to the community, as the AJC phrased it, does not come from graffiti but from investing in militarized policing that will disproportionately affect Black, brown, queer, and poor people. It’s everyone who believes that “crossing a line” doesn’t look like vandalism, but rather looks like cutting down a forest in the middle of a climate crisis, leading to higher temperatures and increased flooding risk for local residents. 

Every step of the way, our movement has faced harsh repression from the Atlanta Police Department (APD). Peaceful protestors have been indiscriminately tackled to the ground, thrown in jail, and released without criminal charges. At one rally in Little Five Points this summer, APD even arrested people who were not protestors at all, but just happened to be in the park that day. Additionally, since 2010 at least 25 Atlanta residents have been killed by APD, including Alexia Christian, Oscar Cain, and Rayshard Brooks. Now, APF, funded by major corporations, is attempting to come into our communities, destroy our precious forestland, and train APD in even more militarized domestic policing. 

The evidence is clear: the APF and APD are the perpetrators of violence, not the community members trying to defend the forest. The AJC argues that “a small group of people do not have a license to engage in violent behavior,” but this is exactly what the APF is doing—overriding public opinion on behalf of a privileged few to further repress poor Black and brown people. 

And this proposal comes on the heels of the country’s largest uprising, when the people of Atlanta called for less policing, not more. 

Because Cop City is so unpopular, APF has had to find ways around the democratic procedures usually required before approving such a project. Emails to the mayor’s office obtained by The Mainline revealed that shortly before the initial vote on Cop City, groups representing major corporations in Atlanta (including Cox Enterprises, owner of the AJC) made open threats to throw their support behind the Buckhead secession movement unless City Council ignored public outcry and forced the project through. Since then, on the rare occasions that city officials have solicited community input, they have acted completely against the wishes of their constituents. The so-called Community Stakeholders Advisory Committee—meant to represent public opinion on the project but in reality stacked with those already sympathetic to APF—even kicked out its only member who dared to oppose Cop City openly. 

The AJC, backed by police and monied interests, is trying to erase the voices of the brave neighbors, educators, students, and activists who are standing up against one of the most powerful forces in Atlanta. But we, the people of Atlanta, will not give up. We are committed to building a future in which Black and indigenous people live and thrive on land that is free from violent expropriation. We will defend the forest for our community—that’s the whole point. 

If you agree, join us for a Weekend of Action starting with a family-friendly rally in Findley Plaza (Little Five Points) on October 14th at 4:30 pm. 

Yours, 

Abolitionist Teaching Network 

American Constitution Society, Emory Law School 

Atlanta Community Press Collective 

Atlanta Radical Book Fair Committee 

Beloved Community 

Color of Change 

Community Movement Builders 

Community Movement Builders Affiliate Group 

Emory Black Studies Collective 

Fayer Collective 

Georgia Educators for Equity & Justice 

Georgia Freedom Letters 

Georgia Human Rights Clinic 

Georgia Tech Student Planning Association 

The Healing Underground 

The Highlander School 

Industrial Workers of the World, Atlanta Chapter 

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, Atlanta Chapter 

Jewish Birdwatchers Union 

Liberation Learning Lab 

Malcolm X Grassroots Movement 

Mosaic Atlanta 

On Our Own Authority! Publishing 

OUTLaw, Emory Law School 

Raise Up the South 

Resurgens Collective 

Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) 

Survival Resistance 

Weelaunee Coalition 

Women on the Rise 

A World Without Police 

Youth Community Builders League 

Carolina Socialists (University of South Carolina) 

Coalition For Wetlands and Forests (Staten Island, NYC) 

Community Not Cages (Winona, MN) 

Everett Free Grocery Program (Lincoln, NE) 

Food Not Bombs (Tallahassee, FL) 

Lincoln Community Care (Lincoln, NE) 

The Lucy Parsons Center (Boston, MA) 

Save Graniteville Wetlands (NYC) 

Save the Meadows (Philadelphia, PA) 

Stop Cop City LNK (Lincoln, NE) 

Suhaib Abaza, MD; Atlanta resident 

Phil Anjum, MD; Atlanta resident 

Jason Baumunk, 55, West Midtown 

Gabriel Eisen, Atlanta resident 

Linda Grant, Boulevard Heights 

Stephen Gurley, MD; Atlanta resident 

Micah Herskind, Adair Park 

Michel Khoury, MD; Assistant Professor, Emory University School of Medicine; Co-director, Georgia Human Rights Clinic 

Alex Klein; President, Emory OUTLaw, Atlanta resident 

Kieran Kristensen, MD; Atlanta resident 

Mariah Parker, MA, PhD; former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner 

Caitlin Petro; Environmental Research Scientist, Atlanta resident 

Dan Resnick, MD; Atlanta resident 

Kevin Rymut, MD; Atlanta resident 

Abby Scribner, PhD; Atlanta resident 

Nick Smith; President, Emory Law School’s American Constitution Society, Atlanta resident 

Mark Spencer, MD; Atlanta resident, District 5 

Bisrat Woldemichael, MD; Atlanta resident 

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