Democracy in Atlanta: Cop City approved after 14 hours of opposing comments

Citizens chant ‘shame’ on current city council with legacies on the line

It was a historic day for the Atlanta city council. For nearly 15 hours on June 5, enraged citizens showed up at the city council meeting to speak against the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. In the early morning of June 6, around 5:30 a.m., Atlanta City Council approved the funding request amidst vehement protests for the center in an 11-4 vote.

The meeting’s prime agenda item was to vote on whether or not to use $67 million of Atlanta taxpayers’ dollars to help fund the facility. The original projection was $30 million. If the vote was denied, the Atlanta Police Foundation wouldn’t be approved for the construction bank loan to build the training center.

The proposed center includes a “mock city” for officers to train on how to handle mass protests in a city setting, which triggered the nickname “Cop City” from protesters.

On June 5, the hordes of speakers featured environmental and Black activists from Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Memphis. One speaker against the building of the facility was a first responder himself, who pleaded to use the proposed funds to properly compensate the police force that is already employed. One citizen even shouted a plea to free superstar rapper Young Thug.

As the clock struck midnight Eastern time, councilmember Antonio Lewis went back and forth with a constituent about who gives more to the people in the Pittsburgh community and on Cleveland Ave. Two hours before that, councilmember Michael Julian Bond was booed after informing the crowd he was still voting “yes,” nearly nine hours into public comments opposing Cop City. Bond, the son of legendary civil rights leader Julian Bond, received chants of “shame” after he reiterated the facility needed to be built, and the city couldn’t facilitate the funds to educators or toward health benefits. At nearly 1 a.m., a citizen dared the council members to put their hand on the Bible and swear they serve the people, not corporations: Bond was the only one who accepted the challenge.

Rolling out spoke to a couple of speakers outside of city hall to ask why they are so passionate about the issue.

Why are you here today?

Gerald Green: I’m here today to say no to Cop City. I’m with the Union of Southern Service Workers. I’m a Waffle House worker, and Waffle House is one of the corporations that’s on the Atlanta Police Foundation. It’s giving its money away to the police instead of funding our communities. Instead of giving Waffle House workers higher wages, quality health insurance, and improving the stores we’ve worked in, Waffle House is funding Cop City.

Daxton Pettus: I’m here to engage with my council members, and to ask them to vote against this legislation. Stand against Cop City due to the systemic racism within the police force and the impact it can have on the Black community. We see continuously our city investing in the interest of the police and corporations rather than actually engaging with the community in adhering to the needs of the people all in Atlanta, not specifically in one section like Buckhead.

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