Hundreds of opponents of “Cop City” — the militarized police-training facility scheduled to be built on forested lands in Atlanta, Georgia, the historic Weelaunee Forest — literally occupied City Hall on May 15. The line to speak before Atlanta Council members in the public comment section of their meeting snaked from the large ground-floor atrium up the stairs and along the balcony to the sign-in table at the Council chamber doors, long before the hearing started. 

Segment of line snaking through City Hall to speak out against Cop City in largest public attendance ever at Atlanta City Council meeting, May 15. Credit: Gloria Tatum

Despite having been in line for a considerable time, several people who didn’t reach the sign-in table by 1 p.m. were denied the right to speak or even enter the chamber.

When the meeting started, more than an hour was spent with various Council members presenting proclamations to civic groups and individuals and getting their picture taken with the recipients. When city public works employees were brought up to be honored, at the urging of this writer, a standing ovation was given by the Stop Cop City advocates.

Finally at 2:15 p.m. the Council president announced that people would be given two minutes to speak and that no clapping or cheering would be allowed, or he would clear the room. However, those inside the room could clearly hear chants of “Let us in,” “Stop Cop City” and “Cop City will never be built” coming from people outside the chamber.

The sign-in sheets showed over 280 people signed up to speak before the list was closed. Despite dozens of empty seats, many Atlanta area residents never gained entrance to the meeting. However, scores watched the proceedings on screens in overflow rooms and the atrium. 

In the seven hours of in-person public comments, not one person spoke in favor of Cop City. Rather every issue, from racist and brutal over-policing, to corporate control to alternative public needs to environmental devastation, was passionately and clearly addressed. Many took pains to make it clear they lived in the Atlanta metro area, as a way to dispute the oft-repeated lie that only “outside agitators” opposed Cop City.

Despite this historic turnout, the majority of the Council members moved the proposed budget with its $33.5 million allocation of taxpayers’ money to the Budget subcommittee for review on May 24. Another large crowd is expected for that committee meeting.

Multiple organizations and coalitions are gearing up for the June 5 scheduled final Council vote on whether to approve city tax money to save the Atlanta Police Foundation’s corporate plan, to insure their profits against any mass upsurge.

In the meantime, the demand for institutions, companies and banks to sever their relationship with the Atlanta Police Foundation and Cop City is escalating across the country with demonstrations, continued legal challenges, mass petitions and phone calls to corporate headquarters and presidents’ offices.

Dianne Mathiowetz

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Dianne Mathiowetz

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