Atlanta organizers unveil plan to stop ‘Cop City’ at ballot box

ATLANTA (AP) – Activists on Wednesday announced an attempt to force a referendum that would allow Atlanta voters to decide whether to go ahead with construction of a proposed police and firefighter training center, in what may be a last-ditch effort , called “Cop City” to stop the project raised by his opponents.

A day after The city council denied the protesters’ requests To refuse funding for the training facility, activists returned to City Hall to table a referendum, hoping to take the fight to the ballot box. In the proposed referendum, voters would decide whether to repeal the ordinance authorizing the lease of the city’s land on which the project is to be built.

However, for the wording to get on the ballot, organizers must first collect the signatures of more than 70,000 Atlanta voters within 60 days of the city clerk approving the petition. They would also have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay advertisers to help them do it.

“People have to have a voice whether there’s a cop city or not,” community organizer Kamau Franklin said during a news conference. “The City Council has consistently failed to listen to the masses of people in Atlanta. … What (the council members) want is what the Atlanta Police Foundation wants, which is to continue to militarize the police, attack our movements, and criminalize our people. We don’t want that.”

Alex Joseph, a local attorney leading the legal effort, said the referendum campaign was modeled on a successful campaign on the Georgia coast, where Camden County residents voted overwhelmingly last year to allow county officials to build a launch pad Firing commercial rockets prohibit space.

The Georgia Supreme Court in February unanimously upheld the legality of the Camden County referendum, although it remains an open question whether citizens can veto city government decisions. Joseph said she expects city officials to take legal action to try to stop the effort, but that she and other attorneys are working to ensure the referendum meets legal requirements.

Opponents of the planned training center say they must collect the signatures of 15% of the approximately 469,000 city residents who were registered voters in the last election, which would translate to 70,330 signatures. About 97,000 people voted in the first round of the city’s 2021 mayoral campaign. Groups supporting the effort include the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Working Families Party.

In advance of the planned construction of the 34-acre campus, construction crews have already begun clearing much of the overgrown urban forest in unincorporated DeKalb County. Project opponents said they plan to seek a court order to halt work pending the outcome of their proposed referendum.

City officials say the $90 million facility would replace inadequate training facilities and help address difficulties in recruiting and retaining police officers, which worsened after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice three years ago.

But opponents, joined by activists from across the country, fear it will lead to greater militarization of police forces and that their construction will exacerbate environmental damage in a poor, mostly black area.

The Stop Cop City effort has been ongoing for more than two years, and at times has been fell into vandalism and violenceThe protesters were accused of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police officers.

More than 350 people signed up Monday afternoon to deliver impassioned speeches against the facility. Testimony in the city council chambers lasted so long — more than 14 hours — that the 11-to-4 vote to fund the facility didn’t come until around 8:30 p.m. the next morning.

Unable to persuade the council to stop the project, the activists said it was time for the activists to take their case to the general public.

“The exciting thing about the referendum is that it’s a silver bullet,” Joseph said. “If we win, the project will end.”

As approved by the City Council in September 2021, the land will be leased to the private Atlanta Police Foundation for $10 per year. The proposed referendum would aim to overturn this agreement.

Atlanta-born and local organizer Clara Totenberg Green said gathering enough signatures in time will be difficult, but believes it can be done.

“There are hundreds, thousands of people who are mobilized and ready to act,” Green said. “We can certainly get the signatures. The challenge lies in the quick turnaround, but we can do it. People are ready.”

Rick Schindler

Rick Schindler is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Rick Schindler joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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