Atlanta City Council Approves $67 Million in Public Funds for ‘Cop City’

Atlanta, GA — Following hundreds of speakers who voiced their opposition to funding ‘Cop City’ over a 14-hour public comment period, Atlanta City Council approved $67 million in funding for the controversial project early Tuesday morning.

Starting Monday morning, crowds amassed at City Hall to speak against the Atlanta Police Foundation’s Public Safety Training Center, also known as ‘Cop City,’ and urge council members to vote against funding the project that’s been at the center of an international protest movement for nearly two years. Lines of Atlanta residents snaked through the building’s lobby as crowds chanted phrases like “if you build it, we will burn it” and “stop cop city.”

Georgia authorities have gone to unprecedented lengths to repress opposition to the project — they’ve charged dozens of protesters under a rarely used domestic terrorism statute and recently arrested three organizers of a bail fund that provides legal aid to activists, accusing them of money laundering and charity fraud over what appear to be ordinary expense reimbursements.

The proposed urban warfare complex is also already tied to the first known U.S. police killing of a climate activist — Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Paez Terán was shot and killed by Georgia State Patrol outside the proposed ‘Cop City’ site in the South River Forest on January 18, 2023. Police initially claimed Terán shot an officer, however an independent autopsy indicates they were sitting cross-legged with their hands up in the air when shot.

Despite 14 hours of public comment almost entirely against the proposed ordinance, Atlanta’s City Council voted 11-4 in favor of funding the urban warfare training center to the tune of $67 million — $31 million in a one-time payment paired with a 30-year $1.2 million lease-back agreement between the city and the private, corporate-funded nonprofit Atlanta Police Foundation (APF).

Meanwhile, any mentions of the lease-back agreement or its details were withheld from the council’s press release published Tuesday morning. In the release, the council mentioned only the “$30 million in funds from the uncommitted general fund budget” and the “use of public safety impact fees in an amount not to exceed $1 million for the purpose of funding the installation of a gymnasium facility on the project’s site.”

During the public comment section, Garrett Brand, a 19-year-old Brown University student who’s from Atlanta, condemned ‘Cop City’ and any council member who intended to vote in favor of it.

“Make no mistake, Atlanta’s legacy is one of stark racial environmental apartheid. That’s a legacy each and every one of you joins if you decide it is okay to destroy the only public park serving a community full of Black children in favor of shooting ranges and bomb test sites designed to spill those same children’s blood.”

Garrett Brand

Since 2021, Atlanta’s government has claimed the public cost to construct the highly controversial police training facility, set to be built in a forest just south of the city, would sit at $30 million. Then in January 2023, it went up to $32 million, and two months later the cost increased to $33.5 million. But in recent weeks, it has been revealed that Atlanta’s taxpayers could end up providing as much as $85.4 million to APF for the project.

Over a thousand people were reportedly present in and around Atlanta City Hall to express their opposition of funding ‘Cop City’ amid the June 5, 2023 city council vote.

Another speaker at the public comment spoke of her grandmother who recently passed away — how she fled a country where the government “militarized and slowly stripped away the rights of its people to the benefit of only the government and its oligarchs.”

“No one would willingly throw away their own right to protest or strike, but it doesn’t start that way,” the speaker continued. “It starts like this, in one city hall somewhere with one vote, and then another, and then another, until what you all thought you were doing is completely gone.”

“This is bigger than just one training facility. But again, I think you all know that. You have an opportunity every day to speak up and to vote to allocate money towards resources and services for the people, but you don’t. A cop training facility will do none of these things, so be honest with yourselves.

Building a cop city is an act of violence.”

Public commenter

Another public comment speaker said that she and her wife live walking distance from the Weelaunee Forest. “I mention that last one because your mayor continually asserts that homeowners around the forest are overwhelmingly supportive of the training facility, excited even. That is a lie.”

Those who showed up to comment Monday reported that their ability to sign up and speak at the meeting had been throttled. The city reportedly closed access to the building at around 12:30 p.m., half an hour before city council’s regular meeting was scheduled to begin. Under the guise of capacity limitations, officials restricted members of the public from entering the building.

Those in attendance also reported that the city only provided one sign-up sheet to register for public comment, and that police refused entry to the elevator that allows access to the second-floor council chambers.

In preparation for the large turnout, the city also imposed a set of restrictions in the lead up to the council meeting, including barring outside liquids and food. Those in attendance reported a heavy police presence, complete with bomb-sniffing dogs inside and outside of the building.

Masses of Atlanta Police officers were deployed to Atlanta City Hall on June 5.

Mayor Andre Dickens released a statement Tuesday morning commending the approval. He also said how “over the past several months” his administration has “heard from citizens who have concerns about the center as well as from many who support it.” However, during every single public comment section about the training center for the past two years, the vast majority has stated their opposition.

On May 15, when the ordinance had its first reading, hundreds showed up to speak against it, with no one speaking in favor.

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