Cop City Protestors Submit 110,000 Petition Signatures to Allow Residents to Vote on Project

On Monday, Sept. 11, organizers and activists opposed to the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility, will submit more than 110,000 petition signatures to City Hall to force a ballot referendum on the project better known as Vop City. Although only 58,000 signatures or 15 percent of registered voters are required to force a vote, organizers say they are hedging their bets, commenting that they are concerned about efforts to disqualify signatures and halt construction until the issue can be decided at the ballot box.

City of Atlanta voting officials are expected to conduct a line-by-line review, a process voting advocates say is a “widely discredited tool of voter suppression.”

“That the city of Atlanta would use such a subjective and unreliable process is shameful and undermines the integrity of the city’s validation procedure,” more than two dozen voting rights organizations, including Fair Fight, wrote to city officials.

Last week, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr issued RICO indictments for 61 protestors he referred to as “military anarchists.” By Frida, Sept. 8, all 61 had posted bond and had been released from jail.

In June After a nearly 14½ hour-long session against a backdrop of hundreds of protestors, Atlanta City Council members voted 11 to 4 to fund the highly controversial Cop City in Atlanta.
Opponents of the training facility say they are concerned that the state-of-the-art police training facility will militarize police and result in more police brutality and police slayings of Black and Brown residents. 
“We have more than 100,000 signatures. You have more people in the electorate involved in this than voted for the mayor… but the city council doesn’t want to let people decide,” says DaMareo Cooper, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a national organization supporting the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement.


Post 3 At-Large Council member Keisha Sean Waites released the following statement in support of a ballot referendum vote for the Public Safety Training Center: 

“I remind myself of one of the basic tenets of Democracy, and what makes America great is the right to vote and make decisions regarding our government. For this reason, I fully support a ballot referendum vote regarding the Public Safety Annex during the November 2023 Election. Let me be clear: my statement does not reflect my lack of support for the law enforcement community. On the contrary, I have received thousands of phone calls, text messages, office visits, and emails from citizens imploring me to vote No and support a ballot referendum vote. For this reason, my no vote on the authorizing legislation represented the voice of those who have spoken. Arguments that there has yet to be a failure to deliver on promises of affordable housing, public transparency, parks & green spaces, and environmental justice,” said Waites. 

Waites added, “The actual taxpayer cost of the proposed facility will be closer to $67 million, which many constituents consider irresponsible and disrespectful. With the recent closure of WellStar, the City of Atlanta has only “one” level one trauma center! We can spend the $67 million of taxpayer’s money on affordable housing, resources for the unsheltered, infrastructure improvements, mental health services, health care for the uninsured, rental and mortgage assistance, including providing accommodation and salary increases for our first responders, and law enforcement officers. These resources directly impact the root causes of crime and poverty. I also empathize with the neighbors who live near the South River Forrest, as the proposed site will have an impact on them, as well as the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line each day to protect our neighborhoods, significantly as crime is escalating nationally and in our city. Yet, we still have a long way to go to improve community-police relations. I remain committed to championing initiatives that move us forward. The democratic process provides every citizen the right to have recourse in questioning and rejecting the decisions of its elected leaders. Furthermore, citizens of unincorporated Dekalb, the site’s location, should also have a voice in these decisions, as they are impacted the most per a recent judicial ruling. The Atlanta City Council should always support civic engagement by citizens using legal and peaceful means to effect positive change. As a result, I will join in supporting my colleagues’ efforts or introduce legislation on Monday, September 18, calling to place the Public Safety Training Center on a referendum ballot vote for the November 2023 election.”

Detractors of the project say the true costs of the training facility will likely double, in terms of construction costs and human tragedy. Hundreds of Atlanta residents gathered at Atlanta City Hall to speak against legislation that would authorize an additional $33.5 million in public funding for proposed Atlanta Police Department training compound which will be built in unincorporated Dekalb County. The project has reportedly exceeded its original budget due to loss of private funders and increased expenses related to the widespread public opposition to the project. 
The last mobilization on May 15 broke previous City Council records for the longest in-person public comment at any Atlanta City Council with a 7-hour-long comment session.
The proposed building site is also the site where a young protestor was shot and killed by a Georgia State Trooper. Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, was a Venezuelan environmental activist and eco-anarchist who was shot and killed by a Georgia State Patrol trooper after an officer was wounded in the leg during a raid of the Stop Cop City encampment on January 18, 2023. However, on April 20, 2023, a Dekalb County medical examiner revealed that Teran was shot 57 times with wounds in his head, torso, hands and legs.  

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