What is Cop City?

What is Cop City?

The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, dubbed Cop City by critics, has caused a wave of controversy, reigniting fights about police violence and Indigenous sovereignty.

Cop City is a large planned project aimed at training police. It would include a mock city to practice urban warfare, explosive testing areas, shooting ranges and a helicopter landing pad. Occupying 85 acres of land, it will be one of the largest police training facilities in the United States. The project site is located on a former prison farm in South East Atlanta, a historically Black and low-income area of the city. It is also thought to have once been a plantation that enslaved at least 19 people, according to Jacobin News.

The training center will be partially funded by the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), a pro-policing think tank and nonprofit that receives money from the City of Atlanta. The APF’s board is made up mostly of executives from large companies, including Chick-fil-A, Delta and Wells Fargo. The plan carries a cost of $90 million, with taxpayers slated to pick up a third of the cost. At a recent Atlanta city council meeting, 70 percent of residents who spoke opposed the plan.

I reached out to the Atlanta Police Department (APD), who declined to be interviewed. However, the APF website states that the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center will “improve morale, retention, recruitment and training for APD” and “set a national standard for community engagement, neighborhood sensitivity and devotion to the civil rights of all citizens by law enforcement.”

Kwame Olufemi, Community Movement Builders, is quoted on the Stop Cop City website, “To be clear — cop city is not just a controversial training center. It is a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill Black people and control our bodies and movements.”

“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,” Olufemi said.

According to Police Scorecard, Atlanta has more racial disparities in deadly force than 83 percent of departments. Police killed 24 people from 2013-2021, 88 percent of those people being Black. The population of Atlanta is less than 50 percent Black, however 90 percent of people arrested during this time period were Black. A Black person in Atlanta is 14.6 times more likely to be arrested for low level, non-violent crimes than a white person.

On January 18, Georgia State Troopers murdered a forest defender and medic named Tortuguita, marking the first environmental activist killed by police in the U.S. The project site is located on unceded Muscogee Creek land; a Native American tribe who were forcibly removed in 1821.

“My hope all along has been to build a better city, a better environment that all of us [that are] marginalized and displaced would have a say in what we build …we don’t have much left in our country,” said Dr. Craig Womack, Creek author and former professor of literature at Emory University in an interview with Mainline. “We still have hopes for these lands, these territories that give life to the people.”

APF says that despite opposition and protests, construction will proceed and the facility will open by the end of the year.