June 4 — In the days leading up to the June 5 Atlanta City Council meeting — where a final vote on the taxpayer share of the cost of building the militarized police training facility, known as “Cop City,” is expected — one shocking revelation after another has come to light.

At 5:30 a.m., June 6, 2023, despite passionate, well-reasoned comments of hundreds of people, the Atlanta City Council voted 11 to 4 to appropriate the now $67 million to build Cop City. In a packed atrium, a line to sign up to speak circled the space, went up the stairs and down the balcony wall. Outside, the line stretched close to two blocks when no more people were allowed into the building. When the vote was announced, the City Council room erupted into chants, vowing that “Cop City will never be built.” Credit: Gloria Tatum

Each new travesty of justice aids the mobilization of individuals, organizations and communities for the June 5 meeting, which will start with press conferences and a rally outside City Hall, to be followed by hundreds and hundreds of Atlantans determined to speak their outrage and pack the City Council meeting. This will be an historic day of reckoning for Mayor Andre Dickens, each City Council member and the city’s elite.

The Atlanta Press Collective produced evidence on May 24 – the same day that the Finance Committee of the Council was set to approve the 2024 budget allotment needed to finance the construction – that the real cost to the city will double from the estimated $31 million to about $67 million. Despite still more opposition to the whole plan from the public at their meeting, the Committee members passed the financing language by a vote of four yeses, one no and one abstention.

For more than two years, two different mayors, the corporate leaders of the private Atlanta Police Foundation and various City Council members repeated false and misleading financial information. It has become clear that the funding picture the APF has promoted was inaccurate to say the least, and Atlanta working-class families will bear the cost directly and indirectly, as city funds for other social services will be cut to pay for Cop City.

Arrests of activists fuel more anger

Adding to this outrageous situation, early in the morning on May 31, a SWAT team accompanied by Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and other police, raided the home of Marlon Kautz and Adele MacLean (known as Earthworm) in the historically Black Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta and arrested them. Savannah Patterson was also arrested at that address by the cops, who carried long guns. Some might say it was a perfect example of what militarized policing looks like.

All three of them were charged with one count of money laundering and one count of charity fraud!!

Kautz and Earthworm, in particular, are well-known activists who have organized CopWatch teams in overpoliced neighborhoods, at demonstrations protesting local and national police killings, and at anti-Klan and anti-Nazi rallies held at Stone Mountain and other Georgia cities. 

In response to the high number of arrests during the countrywide outrage over numerous police killings, they established the Atlanta Solidarity Fund in 2016. This fund assisted many young people with bail and legal support, especially during the mass protests following George Floyd’s murder in May 2020.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Kautz and Earthworm expanded the free food giveaways that had been part of the community services operated out of their home, known as The TearDown. Volunteers continue to deliver boxes of food to seniors and other low-income families weekly, as inflation increases hardships for poor people. 

The nonprofit Network for Strong Communities is the target of the charges jointly brought by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office. They claim that funds from the NFSC supported the nonprofit Defend the Atlanta Forest, a broad umbrella group that has organized opposition to Cop City. 

Here are some of the items described on the receipts being used as evidence: $37 for building materials; $228 for adding “jail support” phone lines; $436 for expenses related to a town hall meeting and then miscellaneous items like “forest clean-up materials and COVID-19 rapid tests.” The state is asserting that Defend the Atlanta Forest is “responsible for numerous acts of violence surrounding the training center site. . . .”

In a statement about the arrests, Carr goes further and declares: “. . . we will not rest until we have held accountable every person who has funded, organized or participated in this violence and intimidation.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 1)

Arrestees have broad support

On the evening of the arrests, hundreds gathered for three hours in front of the Dekalb County Jail, demanding the release of Kautz, Earthworm and Patterson and chanting “Stop Cop City!” — to the approving honks of passing cars.

On June 2, these three individuals were each granted a $15,000 bond, $7,500 for each charge.

Awareness of and support for the movement to Stop Cop City is now national and international. This planned militarized police training center will be utilized by various U.S. police forces and, like the notorious School of the Americas located in Columbus, Georgia, will attract trainees from repressive governments around the world. 

Uprisings of workers, youth and students, retirees, farmers, women and LGBTQ2S+ people have the global bankers and bosses worried they are losing control of their profit system. 

They have reason to worry. Stop Copy City!

Dianne Mathiowetz

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Dianne Mathiowetz

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