A row of people protesting along the entrance of a park.
Image Source: Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

The Community Fight to Save a Forest and Stop Cop City

Attempts are underway to break ground on a massive public development in Atlanta’s South River Forest. It’s not housing for the city’s 3,200 unhoused people (Atlanta Magazine). It won’t resolve the fact that Atlanta consistently has the highest income inequality in the nation (WABE). And it certainly won’t provide justice for the family of Rayshard Brooks, who the Atlanta Police Department murdered. His killer was returned to the police force with back pay (ABC News), while his girlfriend is facing criminal charges for her alleged role in local protests (ABC News). Right after the largest protest movement in U.S. history called for the end of unaccountable police violence, the Atlanta city government wants to clear-cut the region’s largest remaining forest to build a sprawling police training center. A diverse group of social movements has come together to Stop Cop City. 

The prospective site for Cop City is 381 acres of Atlanta’s largest remaining green space. The unceded territory of the Muscogee Creek peoples was home to a plantation before it was turned into a prison farm where incarcerated people were forced to do agricultural labor through the 1980s (Defend the Atlanta Forest). 

TAKE ACTION

Call a Brasfield & Gorrie office and demand that the company withdraws from the Cop City project in the Atlanta forest immediately. Script: “I’m calling to express my serious concern about Brasfield & Gorrie’s involvement in the Cop City project. This construction will further militarize police and destroy an urban forest, a historical site containing unmarked graves. I strongly urge you to drop the contract with the Atlanta Police Foundation immediately.”

• Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund and support a Muscogee stomp dance on the project site this fall.

Get connected to organize with the Stop Cop City campaign.

• Attend the Stop Cop City Teach-In Picnic on June 4 to learn more about the campaign.

Today, the Atlanta city government hopes to create a police training compound complete with a helicopter pad and mock city to practice military-style raids. Cop City would be “a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill Black people and control our bodies and movements,” according to Community Movement Builders. Atlanta police “are practicing how to make sure poor and working class people stay in line. So when the police kill us in the streets again, like they did to Rayshard Brooks in 2020, they can control our protests and community response to how they continually murder our people” (The Appeal).

Last year, over a thousand Atlantans testified to the city council about the proposal. For over 17 hours, the overwhelming majority urged council members to stop Cop City. After a cursory discussion, the Atlanta government decided to proceed with the project. 

Thankfully, a diverse group of organizations and individuals are taking action to ensure that the construction never begins (The Appeal). Hundreds have protested in the streets of Atlanta, including a class of preschool children. At the same time, forest defenders are occupying the prospective Cop City site, risking their lives and freedom by taking direct action against the construction. 

The government’s response has been a classic counterinsurgency strategy. The mayor has attempted to brand resistors as “outside agitators,” despite a bevy of local organizations opposing the project (The Intercept). This particular attack line dates back to the Civil Rights Movement when Dr. King wrote from inside a Birmingham jail cell that “never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea” (Letter from Jail).

At the same time, the police have unleashed incredible violence and repression against those trying to stop the construction of the cops’ new playground. In May, the DeKalb police, the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI raided the protest encampments protecting the forest. Dozens of forest defenders resisted eviction, and, despite the arrests of eight forest defenders, the police were not successful, leaving the encampments still standing (Defend the Atlanta Forest). 

Atlanta community members overwhelmingly oppose this facility. They spoke out, participated in the public process created by local government, and made their concerns clear but were blatantly ignored by those elected to represent them. Instead, these elected officials chose to obey the Atlanta police and their backers, including Coca-Cola, UPS, and Delta (The Intercept). Residents had a choice: to allow law enforcement and corporate power to make a mockery of democracy or to take action to ensure a treasured piece of wild land isn’t converted into a training camp for police atrocities. Thankfully, some have come to the same conclusion as Dr. King: “We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action” (Letter from Jail).

Community resistance has already shown results. Not only is the forest encampment still occupied by forest defenders, but public pressure has already forced one contracting company to leave the project (Stop Reeves Young). Take a few minutes to call current Cop City subcontractor Brasfield & Gorrie and demand they withdraw from the project (Twitter). Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund (ASF) to support those unjustly incarcerated for defending the forest as a fundraiser for a Muscogee stomp dance on the site this November (GoFundMe). And consider signing up to organize with the Stop Cop City campaign no matter where you live (Stop Cop City).

If politicians, corporate executives, and cops have their way, the trajectory laid out by the last five hundred years of white supremacy and state oppression will continue. Today, people in Atlanta are putting their bodies on the line to stop that from happening. We should all join in to support the effort to stop Cop City and defend the Atlanta forest. 


KEY TAKEAWAYS

• The Atlanta city government faces public opposition over a plan to bulldoze hundreds of acres of forest to create a police training ground. 

• Despite police repression, popular resistance has already caused one contractor to pull out of the project.  

• Activists and residents are taking direct action to stop the development and need your support.

%d bloggers like this: