OAN’s Noah Herring
11:00 AM – Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Atlanta City Council on Tuesday morning approved funding for the construction of a police and firefighter training center, who hundreds of activists called “Cop City,” as they stood in City Hall in opposing the project.
The project passed significantly with an 11-4 vote marking victory for Mayor Andre Dickens, who made the $90 million dollar project a large focus since taking office. The City Council also passed a resolution requesting two seats on the board of the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Dickens said that the passage of the budget resolution “marks a major milestone for better preparing our fire, police and emergency responders to protect and serve our communities.”
“Atlanta will be a national model for police reform with the most progressive training and curriculum in the country,” he said.
The “Stop Cop City” movement has sparked protestors from across the country, especially following the January fatal police shooting of Manuel Paez Terán, who had been camping in the woods near the site of the project that was proposed.
Residents took to the podium for around 14 hours in protest of the project, claiming it would be a misuse of public funds to build the facility in a poor, majority Black area.
“We’re here pleading our case to a government that has been unresponsive, if not hostile, to an unprecedented movement in our City Council’s history,” said Matthew Johnson, the executive director a local social justice nonprofit. “We’re here to stop environmental racism and the militarization of the police.”
The controversial training center was approved by the City Council in September 2021 but required another vote to approve the additional funding. Officials say that the 85-acre campus would greatly improve police training facilities, which were inadequately funded, as well as address issues with hiring and retaining officers which worsened after mass protests against police brutality.
Opponents of the bill believe that this facility will lead to greater militarization of the police and the construction will worsen environmental damage. Protestors had camped in the site for at least a year, and police say they caused damage and attacked law enforcement officers and others.
The vote took place following the arrest of three top organizers of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, who provided bail money for arrested protestors. Prosecutors have accused these activists of money laundering, helping to fund the violent acts of “forest defenders.”
On Tuesday, after voting against the facility, Council member Keisha Sean Waites said $67 million in taxpayer funds should be spent elsewhere.
Waites argued for “affordable housing, resources for the homeless and unsheltered, infrastructure improvements, mental health services, health care for the uninsured, rental and mortgage assistance, including providing housing and salary increasing for our first responders and law enforcement officers.
“These resources directly impact the root causes of crime, which policing does not,” she said.
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