At surface level, the Cop City development proposal is already horrific: a plan to destroy 85 acres of the Weelaunee Forest to build a massive police training facility. The Muscogee people lived and thrived around Weelaunee forest since time immemorial. Then in 1783, the State of Georgia drew the Muscogee people into an illegal treaty negotiation, beginning a long saga of land theft and broken promises. Weelaunee forest should be given back to the Muscogee people, not destroyed.
Going deeper, the story of Cop City only gets worse. The $90-million police training facility would be one of the largest in the country, and used to train police in paramilitary tactics – tactics they would use to further harass, surveil, and brutalize people, particularly Black and Brown communities. Atlanta’s communities of color are already the targets of extreme police surveillance and hostility, which goes hand-in-hand with gentrification. Atlanta residents have overwhelmingly opposed Cop City since the proposal went public in 2021, and a vast movement of police and prison abolitionist organizations, environmental justice and civil and human rights groups, neighborhood associations and others have been working hard to elevate those community voices.
So why, then, did the Atlanta City Council approve the facility, despite that decision being so deeply undemocratic? For the same reason why so many “development” projects have gotten approved that harm and gentrify BIPOC and low-income communities: because those who benefit from the existing systems of racial capitalism are motivated to protect systems of policing and imprisonment, all while calling those efforts “public safety.” Those to benefit from Cop City? Powerful companies like Delta Airlines, Koch Industries, and Coca-Cola – all of whom are funding the Atlanta Police Foundation (which in turn funds the new police facility). With such deep corporate backing and a system set up for new police projects to receive funding without public support, the police facility has sailed through City approvals processes.