No doubt, certain corporate leaders and elected officials might have hoped that the June 5 City Council vote to approve the $67 million from city funds to go to the Atlanta Police Foundation’s “Cop City” project would be the death knell of public opposition.
Yet, rather than concede, the grassroots movement of multiple communities and organizations, fueled by the transparent denial of democratic representation by elected officials, has launched a bold campaign to solicit more than 70,000 registered Atlanta voters to sign a petition to get the issue on the November ballot.
Let the people decide!
Prepared to submit the language for a ballot initiative to the city clerk’s office within 24 hours of the Council capitulation to the corporate Georgia state Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), members of CopCityVote.com faced three delays by the clerk’s office over minor issues that could have been resolved with a phone call.
The impact of this suspicious inaction by a city employee, who finally approved the petition wording on June 22, meant that rather than a full 60 days to gather the necessary signatures, the time was cut to 58. The required 50 days for the city to verify the validity of the signatures remains.
Undeterred, volunteers by the dozens immediately took the approved signature papers into neighborhoods across Atlanta, and as news of the delays created by the city spread, hundreds more people volunteered to canvas.
Two other developments reveal that the unpopularity of the Cop City project is growing. On June 17, the members of the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board, which consists of representatives from each of Atlanta’s 25 Neighborhood Planning Units, voted to support the ballot referendum and sent letters to Mayor Andre Dickens and the city clerk, advising them of their decision. Dickens and other city representatives have made a concerted effort to get the NPUs to support the project, so this vote to support the referendum says a lot.
Then on June 23, DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announced her office would not prosecute cases arising from arrests opposing the militarized training center. Although the land projected for the facility is owned by Atlanta, it is actually in unincorporated DeKalb County. Those charged with “domestic terrorism” or other charges have been held in the DeKalb County Jail, some for months.
Boston’s recusal now puts the prosecution of these cases in the hands of State Attorney General Chris Carr, who some credit with first devising the “domestic terrorism” charges for people who are not charged with any specific act other than being in Weelaunee Park, the planned site for Cop City.
One day earlier, Michael Register, head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, resigned after less than a year on the job. Appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, his office oversaw the investigation into the killing of Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán by Georgia Highway Patrol officers, who took part in a multipolice agency sweep of the Atlanta Forest on Jan. 18.
While there is no bodycam footage of the fatal encounter, gunshot audio captured by Atlanta City police cameras and the family autopsy of Tortuguita’s bullet-riddled body offer another version of the official GBI account that the young Forest Defender shot first. The trajectory of the bullet entrance and exit wounds show that Tortuguita was seated cross-legged in his tent with hands raised, palms inward. Register offered no reason for his resignation.
On another front, the Weelaunee Forest Week of Action started June 24 with an all-day gathering of hundreds in Brownwood Park in East Atlanta, offering a variety of activities including music, speakers, food, discussion on various issues including the referendum petitioning, a plant giveaway and children’s playtime. The day closed with a memorial to Tortuguita.
Each day has a variety of events including the March for the Forest on June 28, a demonstration at a Home Depot on June 29, protest rallies outside banks on June 30, and marches and a concert on July 1. Skill sharing, art builds and other workshops and activities are included daily. For additional information on the Stop Cop City actions, go to CopCityVote.com or defendtheatlantaforest.org. The Atlanta Press Collective is also a good source for information.