As Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced Tuesday that construction of the $90 million, 85-acre police and fire training center known as “Cop City” will proceed under what Dickens called a “compromise,” critics of the project had a resounding message: “Defend the Atlanta Forest. Stop Cop City.”
Speaking during a Tuesday press conference at Atlanta City Hall, Dickens, a Democrat, outlined changes to the project. Acknowledging “concerns about the environmental impact” of the project, the mayor said a 100-foot tree buffer would be added, and that 100 new hardwood trees would be planted for each one destroyed during construction. Dickens also said the complex’s firing range would be moved further away from a nearby residential area.
Dickens also defended the type of police training that would take place at the facility, saying it “includes vital areas like de-escalation training techniques, mental health, community-oriented policing, crisis intervention training, as well as civil rights history and education.”
However, activists—many of whom protested inside and outside City Hall chanting slogans including “APD, shut it down,” referencing the Atlanta Police Department, and “Cop City will never be built”—were not swayed in their opposition to the project.
“Our firm line is no Cop City anywhere,” Jasmine Burnett, organizing director at Community Movement Builders, told Unicorn Riot outside City Hall. “No destruction of the forest at all. I know, they’re trying to harp on the fact that it’s only 85 acres. And allegedly, the rest will be left for public use. But that’s 85 acres too much.”
Over the objections of environmental, racial justice, Indigenous, and other groups, the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF)—a private organization whose backers include major corporations like Amazon, Home Depot, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and UPS—was given permission in 2021 to build what’s officially called the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in the Weelaunee Forest in DeKalb County just outside Atlanta city limits. Cop City would be built on land stolen from the Muscogee people, many of whom were forced westward during the genocidal Trail of Tears period.
Also protesting outside City Hall on Tuesday, community organizer Micah Herskind said: “How dare they stand in front of people and say, ‘Oh, this plan, where we’re tearing down trees, is actually good for people, and it’s good for the economy, and it’s—you know, it’s actually going to protect people?’ It’s obviously false, and I hope that it’s reported as such, because it’s such classic, blatant spin, that they’re taking us for fools if they think anyone would believe that tearing down trees and putting cement over it is protecting the environment. That’s outrageous.”