Zack Fox headlines Atlanta ‘Cop City’ protest festival; tension builds

Some of the sights and sounds from the ongoing protest

Something has finally constructed on the grounds of the South River Forest – a stage. Protestors of the site they’ve dubbed “cop city” threw a two-day free music festival in the area as a part of the “week of action,” a larger protest for those against the city of Atlanta’s $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, which the city council approved to build in 2021.

The center would include firing ranges and explosive testing grounds, and a mock city for officers to train on how to handle city-wide protests, according to Unicorn Riot.

“We’re here because we want to stop cop city. We want to stop environmental racism,” A protestor, who asked to remain anonymous, told festival attendees on stage. “We want to stop police brutality. We want to stop disinvestment in Black communities. We want to stop the destruction of our earth, and we want to stop the militarization of the police force that is happening across the country and across the world.”

The two-day festival was headlined by Zack Fox and members of AWFUL RECORDS, the Atlanta underground hip-hop, R&B and lo-fi collective. Other announced and unannounced performers included Father, Raury, Etheral, Tony Shhnow, Archibald Slim and Mercury.

“This is my old neighborhood … When I tell you me, Archie, everybody else used to walk in these woods, drink Red Stripe’s, walk our dogs, shoot guns and s—,” Fox told the crowd. “So I really don’t want to see this s— happen.”

Fox, who stars as Tariq on the hit sitcom “Abbottt Elementary,” said he came out to the show on his own dime because he supported what the activists were doing.

“I’m 32,” Fox said. “A lot of n—– start getting old and they lose faith in the youth. I have so much faith in everybody in [here]. I truly believe you all are going to save this m———– world.”

Despite the good vibes from the first night of the festival, the fight to prevent the building of “Cop City” has been ugly, to say the least. In January, cops raided the forest in an attempt to clear the protestors who were camping on the grounds. The raid led to the killing of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, a 26-year-old activist who went by the name of “Tortuguita.” Police initially claimed the activist shot and struck a state trooper first, but body camera footage revealed the state trooper was hit by a fellow officer.

Before this past weekend’s festival, at least 19 people were arrested for domestic terrorism in connection to demonstrations against “Cop City,” according to Fox News. Six of the arrests came in a protest in downtown Atlanta following the death of Teran.

The ruckus returned on the second night of the festival. A group of “agitators,” people who urge others to rebel, left the festival around 5:30 p.m. and allegedly began to throw fireworks, Molotov cocktails, large rocks and bricks at police officers, authorities reported. Some of the suspects in the attack arrested were from France, Canada, Massachusetts and New York, Fox News reported.

According to Defund the Atlanta Forest, the 35 people arrested were “peaceful concertgoers who were nowhere near the demonstration.”

“This wasn’t about a public safety training center,” Darin Schierbaum, Atlanta Chief of Police, said. “This was about anarchy, and this was about an attempt to destabilize. And we are addressing that quickly. Actions such as this will not be tolerated. You attack law enforcement officers, you damage equipment, you are breaking the law. This was a very violent attack that occurred this evening.”

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