The Atlanta City Council advance Legislation was passed early Tuesday that would help fund a controversial public safety training facility.
The council voted 11-4 for that the legislation, what would assign a additionally 31 million dollars from the uncommitted overall fund budget for 2023 toward the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. The move comes after a huge turnout at a city council meeting on Monday, where community members and organizers expressed their disapproval of the facility, popularly known as “Cop City.” Hours of public comment.
The vote also comes about two weeks after the finance subcommittee voted 5-1 for financing the apprenticeship on May 24th.
The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center would have at least 85 acres of land in the South River Forest, an area with a complex history that includes at least one plantation, a prison farm, and the forcible evictions of Indigenous peoples. The city said the Atlanta Police Foundation will fund two-thirds of the total cost, about $60 million, to build the facility through “Charity and corporate donations.” However, the remainder should come from the taxpayer.
However, the Atlanta Community Press Collective concluded that the amount taxpayers end up paying is around 50% more than double the original allocation of $31 million in tax dollars by virtue of an arrangement known as a “leaseback agreement”. Under the terms of the agreement, the City of Atlanta would pay the Atlanta Police Foundation $1.2 million annually to use the training facility, which would ultimately add $36 million to the cost over the 30-year lease . The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
A A spokesman for Mayor Andre Dickens’ office told the AJC that the lease payments are “budget neutral.” She said the money will come from funds already allocated to training police officers and firefighters.
Though Cop City may not be the largest training facility in the United States, organizers have told HuffPost they fear the plans could expand to more than 85 acres entire lease of 381 hectares. According to the current status, the rest of the area is to be used as “green space”.
The Movement to stop Cop City From Being Building is made up of people from all backgrounds and interests – including Black, Indigenous, Abolitionists, Environmentalists and more. While some members of the movement are local residents, others have come from elsewhere to support the cause. People support the movement in different places and in many different ways – forest defender have lived in the forest to protect the land, others are organizing protests, and some are sharing information in person and online.
But the movement has also faced resistance, and in some cases violence, from law enforcement and city officials.
Georgia State Troopers killed Manuel Estaban Paez Terana forest defender named Tortuguita, in the forest in January.
And at least 40 people have been charged with domestic terrorism, even some attending a music festival in the woods. Three people have been charged with criminal offenses after they were accused of posting flyers on mailboxes citing the name of one of the officers who fatally shot Tortuguita.
Recently, three board members helped rescue activists from an organization were arrested and charged with money laundering and charity fraud.
“Most protest offenses are administrative offenses or violations of regulations, such as a speeding ticket,” says lawyer Lyra Foster previously told HuffPost. “People need to understand that the actions of the protesters have not changed; the crimes they are accused of. This is not an escalation of protest, but a crackdown on the same amendment-protected protests as before.”
Some elected officials, including Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, insisted on suppressing the movement.
“As we have said before, we will not rest until we have held accountable every person who funded, organized or participated in this violence and intimidation.” Carr tweeted Wednesday.
Others, such as democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, have previously advised opponents of the project to protest peacefully and share their thoughts with the city council. On Sunday, the pair, along with MP Jamaal Bowman (DN.Y.), issued statements questioning the recent arrests and reactions from state and local officials.
Hours of public comment, numerous peaceful protests, and other attempts to get the message across have so far received no satisfactory response, even leading to dozens of arrests.
The organizers described the relentless opposition from lawmakers and law enforcement agencies as political persecution.
Hannah Riley, a writer and organizer, previously told HuffPost that the movement is ongoing.
“Despite increasing intimidation, harassment and repression, the movement is encouraged. It’s going nowhere,” Riley said. “People see it for what it is. They see it as an attempt to undermine people’s right to freedom of expression and to oppose terrible things like this under the First Amendment.”