Sixty-one activists appeared before Fulton County Court yesterday on racketeering charges related to their protest of Atlanta’s new “Public Safety Training Center,” commonly known as Cop City. The arraignment comes after the Georgia Attorney General’s Office alleged, in September, that defendants were “conspiring” to violate the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. If convicted, each “Stop Cop City” activist could face up to 20 years in prison — even those who are alleged to have participated in non-violent protests. Experts worry that it’s the latest tactic by Georgia officials to stifle political dissent.
Since its approval by the Atlanta City Council in 2021, Cop City has been the subject of intense controversy and criticism across the nation. The corporate-backed Atlanta Police Foundation, which is spearheading the project, says the center “will reimagine law enforcement training.” It will include a “Mock City for burn building training and urban police training,” an “auditorium for police/fire and public use,” and a police academy, among other things. Upon its completion, the $90 million, 84-acre facility would be the nation’s largest police training center.
But Cop City opponents warn that the center, which will be located near a majority-Black neighborhood, will further militarize the police and increase police violence against Black Americans. The proposed training center is also slated to be built on forested land that was previously a prison labor camp. Environmental advocates say that destroying this green space would be a step backward in the fight against climate change and make Atlanta even more vulnerable to extreme weather. [Continue reading…]