Atlanta activists launch referendum campaign to stop 'Cop City'

Hundreds of people gathered on Monday, June 5, 2023 to give public comment before Atlanta City Council votes on funding for a controversial public safety training center opponents have dubbed "Cop City." (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

In light of the recent vote of the Atlanta City Council to move ahead with the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, activists announced Wednesday a campaign for a referendum that would allow registered City of Atlanta voters to decide the fate of the controversial facility.

The coalition responsible for the initiative, comprised of Atlanta voters, organizers and community leaders, said in a recent press release they want the City of Atlanta to repeal its lease to the Atlanta Police Foundation. They said they felt compelled to act after witnessing over 400 Atlanta residents speak against the proposed project on Monday and Tuesday, only for their concerns to be ignored.

Organizer and community leader, Kamau Franklin, speaks at Atlanta City Hall on June 5, 2023 before City Council voted to approve funding for a controversial public safety training center opponents call “Cop City.” (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

“The Atlanta community has repeatedly drawn attention to the serious harms posed by Cop City, including environmental damage and the dangers of a militarized police force that have the potential of impacting the everyday lives of Black Atlantans,” said R. Gary Spencer, Senior Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“But instead of addressing these concerns, Georgia officials have responded with police violence, targeted arrests, and unduly harsh charging decisions.”

Within the next two months, organizers hope to reach over 75,000 signatures, the minimum amount in order to qualify for the referendum process. If successful, Atlanta residents will vote on the referendum in November.

Those living closest to the training center aren’t City of Atlanta residents and won’t be eligible to participate in the petition or vote on the potential referendum.

“The overwhelming majority of people opposed ‘Cop City’ but the city council chose again to side with the police & corporations to continue to criminalize our community,” said Kamau Franklin, organizer and community leader. “Which is why it is time for the people of Atlanta to decide.”