Cop City Construction



A banner hung near the site of construction.

Just last week, the construction of what critics are calling “Cop City,” officially known as the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, was put in motion, initially authorized in 2021 by Atlanta’s City Council ten votes to four. So far, 85 acres of the South River Forest in Dekalb County have been reserved for the quarter of the center scheduled to be built by December 2023.

The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center will cost 90 million dollars to build. Sixty million will come from the area’s most significant companies and the Atlanta Police Department’s philanthropic arms. The leftover 30 million will be derived from taxpayers.

The foundation will build classrooms, a shooting range, and a driving course to create a “mock city.” According to ABC News, the center will serve as a specialized training ground for law enforcement and fire department officials, who will be taught explicit de-escalation techniques that align with various potentially disastrous situations. “We need to make sure officers are prepared for real-life scenarios,” said Mayor Andre Dickens’ spokesman, Bryan Thomas.

From a different perspective, protestors are enraged. State-wide, movements including Stop Cop City have emerged. Kamau Franklin, one of the organizers of the Stop Cop City movement, has highlighted the concerns many are voicing.

As mentioned previously, the first portion of the Atlanta Public Training Center will span 85 acres over the South River Forest, more specifically known as the Weelaunee Forest, which Franklin says is “one of the most significant urban forests in the US” and is as others have described as one of the “four lungs” of Atlanta.

Another concern is the heightened aggressive enforcement. The Atlanta Public Training Center will be built bordering a Black working-class neighborhood in Southeast Atlanta, potentially compromising the safety of this community, and igniting increased fear. Protestors argue that this center will exemplify the ongoing problem regarding police brutality by further militarizing the police and threatening the lives of marginalized people.

In response, protestors, not only from Atlanta, but from across the nation and even a select few from foreign countries, have launched an attack on Cop City, going as far as hurling rocks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks into construction zones. Some have set up barricades at the site, while others have taken up residence in their makeshift treehouses amongst the treetops.

While these protestors have remained resilient, law enforcement has confronted them with brute force and intense charges. 35 protestors have been arrested, 23 of whom have been charged with domestic terrorism. One protestor, Manuel Paez Terán, was shot and killed, a death that threw exemplified fuel to the flame.