What's Happening at ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta? | Sojourners


A group of protestors wearing masks, hats, and sweatshirts touch and gather around a memorial stone dedicated to Manuel Esteban “Tortuguita” Paez Terán, a 26-year-old demonstrator killed by law enforcement.

Mourners visit a memorial to Manuel Esteban “Tortuguita” Paez Terán, a 26-year-old demonstrator killed by law enforcement on Jan. 18 at the planned site of the “Cop City” project in Atlanta. / Reuters / Cheney Orr

What's Happening at ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta?

Atlanta's police department plans to construct a massive training facility for its force by razing a forest, and Georgians ain't having it.
By Micah Herskind

Micah Herskind is a prison abolitionist organizer in Atlanta. He spoke with Sojourners’ Mitchell Atencio.

"COP CITY" IS A PLAN to raze 381 acres of forest land in Atlanta and convert it into a massive police training facility that would cost $30 million in public money and $60 million in private. It’s called Cop City because the plans include a mock city inside with things like a playground, school, gas station. All places that cops can train and simulate the things they do. It faced a ton of opposition from a wide range of organizations when it went public in 2021 — and really brought on people at different levels, including climate change and environmental preservation. The private money involved is from a lot of Georgia corporations — Coca-Cola, UPS, Home Depot — and it’s all being run through the Atlanta Police Foundation, the nonprofit entity that the city leased this land to. On the day of the vote, there were 17 hours of public comment against it. The Atlanta City Council approved the plan.

Since then, people have continued to work to stop Cop City and defend the forest — from physically living in the forest to defend it to pressuring the city, contractors, and funders to pull out of the project. It’s inspiring to see how this big-tent, decentralized movement has worked. There are people who don’t care about policing but want green spaces. Others connect capitalist extraction, environmental degradation, and police expansion.

Recognizing the dignity of people and the value of our world are all things that should drive people to become abolitionists, value this precious land, and value all the neighbors impacted by this facility. To me, this kind of organizing should be what being Christian is, what practicing your faith is. If we see each other in a certain light, that requires us to take particular actions in solidarity with each other. It has been radicalizing for a lot of people.

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Micah Herskind is a prison abolitionist organizer in Atlanta.