The ARD had the privilege of speaking with Talia Rouser, a student activist at Georgia State University. Born and raised in Atlanta, Talia was active in 2020’s George Floyd Rebellion and now organizes as an affiliate of Community Movement Builders and a member of the Sankofa Society. She is organizing with her classmates to prevent the clear-cutting of the Weelaunee Forest for the construction of a police urban warfare training facility. The proposed Cop City’s $90 million plan would be funded by the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation, whose donors include Bank of America, Delta Airlines, Chick-fil-A, Home Depot, and Talia’s own school, Georgia State.
• Contact GSU’s Dr. Deepak Raghavan at email@example.com or 404-413-6044, and demand he resign from Atlanta Police Foundation.
• Contact GSU Astronomy Department Chair Sebastien Lepine at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-413-6020 and Provost Nicolle Parsons-Pollard at email@example.com or 404-413-2688 to express your opposition to Dr. Raghavan’s participation with the Cop City urban warfare training center.
• Support Community Movement Builders and the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, and follow Defend the Atlanta Forest to get involved.
Q: Why do you oppose Cop City?
The facility grounds would be in the middle of the Weelaunee Forest near the South River, a water supply not only for Atlanta but the majority of DeKalb County, as well. This facility would be for training but also for bomb ordnance detonation. Mind you, this is also a residential area. So they would be detonating bombs near people’s houses while polluting the forest and cutting down much-need trees. It’s an older, predominantly Black area where a lot of the residents have been there for 60+ years. So not only are they trying to push people out of their homes, but also making where they live a hazard because you’d either have a higher police presence or would be listening to bombs being detonated or helicopters doing training exercises day and night. My home wouldn’t be safe anymore because I’d be just hearing all of this in the background.
If this facility gets built, the Black residents who have lived there for decades are going to be pushed out of that area either through terrorism, fear, or just poverty with taxes rising. And then white people who aren’t from here will be like, “Oh, this house for $700,000? We love it.”
Q: How is policing connected to white supremacy?
The Atlanta Police Department is almost 60% Black, but you have Black police committing acts of violence through militarization against other Black people. Like we saw with Tyre Nichols, just because you are a minority officer does not mean you recognize the humanity in the minority citizens you’re policing. Policing itself started with slave patrols to capture runaway slaves, bring them back, and punish them. After Reconstruction, with the Black Codes, policing was used to send Black people back to jail to put them to work on plantations through the 13th Amendment.
A lot of minorities will join the police force saying, “I want to be the change.” Well, you’re not the change. You fall into the system, and what you wanted to change, you’re now inflicting upon other people.
There were a lot of clashes with the police in 2020. Most of the time, they were the aggressors. They’d say, “I hear you. I understand.” Three hours later, they’re trying to pepper spray us in the face or arrest us as we leave the protests.
Q: How is Georgia State University connected to Cop City? What do students and other residents think?
Georgia State University is sponsoring Cop City directly. They aren’t on the list of donors but are a major donor to the Atlanta Police Foundation. There’s a George State University professor, Dr. Deepak Raghavan, who’s on the board of the Atlanta Police Foundation, and we’re trying to get him removed. Email him, email the Provost, and email the head of the Astronomy Department. With outside concerns, the university will take action.
There are a lot of people born and raised here who do not want this. For the mayor, City Council members, or the DeKalb County CEO to say they haven’t heard that—they either have their heads buried in the sand or are just plain ignoring people.
Students on campus recognize that Cop City would militarize Atlanta and George State’s part in it. Most of us are angry. You can invest millions of dollars into Cop City but can’t build student housing, so we don’t have to commute from two hours away? You can’t fix the elevators that people get stuck in on a weekly basis?
Q: Why should this matter to people who don’t live in Atlanta?
This is a test run. They’re trying to see if this can work here. It’s only a matter of time before they say, what about doing this in Miami, Kansas City, or Oakland? Imagine what this would look like in your own neighborhood. Imagine a situation where you could usually just walk down the street, but now you’re being stopped for every little thing, or police are issuing no-knock warrants to your neighbors, or you’re hearing helicopters all the time. Put yourself in the situation of the citizens of Atlanta, and you can see why it needs to be stopped. Because if it happens here, it’s going to happen to you.