Hundreds of volunteers, operating in three shifts daily, can be found all across Atlanta collecting signatures of residents to push for a ballot referendum in November on the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, better known as “Cop City.” They can be found at farmers markets, grocery stores and city parks – as well as going door-to-door and at organized pub crawls – to collect the needed signatures.
While the task of collecting some 70,000 valid signatures in 58 days is daunting, organizers believe that it will be a win by having many conversations with people about what they would rather the $67 million in taxpayer money now allocated to Cop City be spent on.
Thousands of signatures have already been gathered despite Atlanta law stating that anyone who registered to vote after Oct. 4, 2021, is ineligible. This very well might include some of the most dedicated Forest Defenders, who were likely too young in the fall of 2021 to register to vote.
The city rules around gathering signatures are convoluted. The person signing must reside in Atlanta and have been eligible to vote in the November 2021 election. The person collecting the signatures has to be an Atlanta resident, and each signature must be witnessed by someone who has been registered to vote since Oct. 4, 2021. In some cases, this means that two canvassers are needed in order to collect each signature.
On July 7, four anti-Cop City activists who live in DeKalb County – a majority Black, working-class county located a few miles away from the proposed site of the militarized police training facility – filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia. They charge that the Atlanta law is unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, saying the law “endangers any effort to successfully petition local governments to amend or repeal laws by popular vote.”
Those who will be most impacted by Cop City – including by the constant sound of gunfire, vehicle-driving exercises, a burn tower, urban warfare training and the environmental devastation Cop City will cause – not only cannot vote, but also can’t participate in making the referendum possible. No date has been set for the court hearing.
With more support coming from organizations and individuals in the form of financial resources, as well as local and country-wide demonstrations, letters, phone calls and texts pouring into corporate headquarters and Atlanta politicians’ offices, the belief is strong that Cop City will never be built.