"Defund the Police" is written in large yellow lettering on a city street, seen from above.

Atlanta’s $90 Million ‘Cop City’ Is Everything Wrong With America’s Priorities

With both climate change and militarized policing raging out of control, the priorities of those in the U.S. should be clear: We need to defund the police, grant safety and dignity to oppressed communities, and preserve our threatened ecosystems. However, a proposed “Cop City” outside of Atlanta, GA takes us in the opposite direction.

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What is Cop City? First proposed in September 2021, Cop City is a planned $90 million “public safety training campus” for Atlanta’s police department. Covering 85 acres, with an additional 265 acres of forest leased to the Atlanta Police Department, the training complex would include a mock city, helicopter landing pad, and shooting ranges where police can practice military tactics to use against Atlanta residents. Despite overwhelming opposition to the project among Atlanta residents, which was expressed during 17 hours of public comment at the September 2021 public hearing, the Atlanta City Council approved the ordinance.

The purpose of Copy City, to further militarize an already deadly police force, is bad enough. Instead of spending $90 million on food, housing, and education for its residents, the city of Atlanta and the donors supporting the project have chosen to pour even more money into violence. Speaking to Mainline Magazine in 2021, Jamal Taylor of the Atlanta-based organization Community Movement Builders described the impact of the project on residents:

[Cop City] is a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill Black people and control our bodies and movements. The facility includes shooting ranges, plans for bomb testing, and will practice tear gas deployment. They 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.

Movement lawyer Olayemi Olurin also described Cop City in a video on Twitter.

As Taylor and Olurin both point out, cops will be able to use the training complex for teargassing, explosions, bombing, and high-speed chases.

The location of Cop City makes the project even worse. The land that the Atlanta City Council is leasing to its police department is located in the South River Forest, adjacent to a predominantly Black neighborhood. In addition to serving as a bulwark against climate change, the forest is also Muscogee (Creek) territory, which was used as a plantation and then a prison farm after its Indigenous residents were forcibly removed through ethnic cleansing. To put a massive police training complex on that land, with its painful history and ecological significance, sends a resounding message to the people of Atlanta.

For the past two years, protestors in Atlanta have tried to stop the construction of Cop City. Recently, though, protestor Manuel Estaban Terán was killed by a police officer during a raid on a South River Forest encampment. Police claim to have recovered a handgun that Terán used to shoot an officer, but Teran’s mother and other protestors dispute that claim. Terán’s mother told the Guardian that she’s “convinced that he was assassinated in cold blood.”

How to stop Cop City

Protestors against Cop City have formed a coalition called Stop Cop City. The coalition’s website contains action items for volunteers interested in getting involved.

Forests, not militarized police, are the key to a healthy future.

What kind of world do we want to live in? A world full of forests, with a healthy climate, where all people can lead safe, fulfilling, and dignified lives?

Or do we want an endless maze of concrete, with infrastructure that worships violence, enforced by militarized police? Why would anyone want that kind of world? Cop City is a startling glimpse of just how bleak the U.S.’s future could be—unless we reverse course now.

(featured image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)


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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>