Over the weekend, protesters gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to mourn the police killing last Wednesday of Tortuguita, a 26-year-old environmental activist fighting the planned construction of so-called “Cop City,” the largest police and fire department training facility of its kind in the country.
Give us five minutes of your time in this new edition of Cheat Sheet, and we’ll explain how Atlanta arrived at this moment, and what the conflict reveals about the politics and finances of U.S. policing, land defense and environmental justice, and whose voices matter most in the discourse on resource allocation.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Activists in Atlanta, Georgia, have spent the last two years battling city officials and law enforcement over a city-approved plan to build a $90-million training center for police and firefighters, in an alleged attempt to reduce crime.
The training facility, dubbed “Cop City” by protesters, would be built on 85 acres of former plantation and prison farm land in unincorporated Dekalb County, land the Atlanta City Council voted to lease to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) for just $10 a year. The center is supposed to include a shooting range, a mock village complete with a fake night club and other amenities, and a park named after former first lady Michelle Obama.
Atlanta City Council greenlit the plan in 2021 on a 10-4 vote following 17 hours of public comment, the vast majority of which was in opposition to the proposal.
The project is being spearheaded by APF, a private nonprofit working to support law enforcement in Atlanta. On its website, the APF touts the new training center as setting “a national standard for community engagement, neighborhood sensitivity, and devotion to the civil rights of all citizens by law enforcement.” But opponents of the plan instead say the project is a way to further militarize law enforcement in a community that has long faced over-policing and surveillance.
Activists, whose clarion call of “Stop Cop City” has drawn national attention, say that the “Atlanta Police Foundation is trying to build the largest police training facility in the U.S. in Weelaunee Forest, a watershed surrounded by primarily Black residents who overwhelmingly oppose the project.”