Sunday, July 21, 2024

During two City Council meetings in September we joined numerous other Cantabrigians through in-person and virtual public comment regarding the proposed “Atlanta Police Training Facility” – better known as “Cop City.” Cop City is a contentious proposed $90 million, 85-acre militarized police base in the Weelaunee Forest just outside of Atlanta. The project has drawn enormous community opposition, especially from anti-police-violence activists, environmental advocates and the disproportionately Black and Brown neighbors closest to the site. Constructing Cop City would result in the clear-cutting of nearly 100 acres of trees, which provide vital natural resources to nearby residents, many of whom are Black, Brown and lower-income.

From the first discussions, Cop City has faced enormous public opposition in and beyond Atlanta. Although many corporations and a bipartisan political establishment support Cop City, working-class people in Atlanta have countless better uses for nearly $100 million: Instead of building a fake city with fake housing for out-of-state police to practice raids, build real public housing for working people in Atlanta. We have seen police repression and surveillance toward anti-Cop City organizers that is reminiscent of the police violence and state repression that happened during the civil rights and Black Power movements. Already, we have seen the murder of the first climate protester in the United States. If police violence and repression is not suppressed, it is likely we will see more. When organizers set up a bail fund to help release people from jail following politically motivated arrests, police forces engaged in unprecedented SWAT attacks for simply operating a bail fund, long a tool of nonviolent civil rights movements. These organizers are now facing racketeering charges from the Georgia Republican attorney general. Incumbent politicians of both political parties support Cop City and organize to suppress resistance from people. Democratic mayor Andre Dickens is engaging in voter suppression to prevent voters from weighing in directly on Cop City.

The battle over Cop City is the business of city governments all over this country. Every forest is vital in the fight against climate change and for humanity’s survival, as scientists are already seeing signs that the worst outcomes of our carbon emissions are unfolding. Deforestation anywhere concerns all of us. The facility also will train police forces from around the country. The Atlanta Police Foundation reveals that nearly 43 percent of trainees will be from out of state. That means the Cambridge Police Department would have been a likely source of revenue for this project.

Cambridge passed policy order 159 against Cop City on Sept. 11. After a motion to reconsider that historic vote, Cambridge residents like us again came to the council meeting on Sept. 18 to urge the council to reaffirm our opposition to Cop City and to refuse to send Cambridge police there. After debate and public testimony, the council doubled down with a second vote solidifying our stance, which underscores the financial precariousness of Cop City that depends on the resources from out-of-state police forces descending on Atlanta. Cities around the country should join Cambridge in refusing to fund Cop City in the future by sending police forces there.

Evan MacKay and Aïcha Belabbes

Evan MacKay is a doctoral student in sociology and social policy at Harvard with a background in criminology. They are the president of the Harvard Graduate Students Union HGSU-UAW Local 5118 and live in Neighborhood 9.

Aïcha Belabbes is a lifelong Massachusetts resident, a community activist in Cambridge and member of the Muslim Justice League who has organized with the Stop Cop City movement, the Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement and liberation for autistic people.