No Cop City Anywhere

Simultaneously, as the climate warms, as storms and disasters worsen, as infrastructure crumbles, and as more and more people are left jobless and houseless, the true reason the political class pumps ever more resources into militarization is being revealed: It’s not to protect against some so-called ​“crime wave” the corporate media constantly fear mongers about, but instead to police the very collapse of capitalism itself. 

BENJI HART, In These Times

There are many efforts emerging to address the racism, militarism, and violence of policing in this country. These efforts are growing because they are at the intersection of capitalism, white supremacy, racism, militarism, authoritarianism, ongoing environmental devastation, and police and prison abolition.

A monumental struggle is currently taking place in the Weelaunee Forest in DeKalb County near Atlanta, Georgia.

The local government plans to level 85 acres of the forest to build a $90 million police training facility. The natural environment that would be lost is not only a precious recreational resource for Atlanta residents, but a crucial bulwark protecting against flooding and other climate change-related disasters, which are on the rise. Despite city leaders’ commitment to ramming the project through undemocratically, a decentralized campaign known as #StopCopCity is fighting back. 

The movement is connecting police and prison abolition with environmental justice, and uniting organizations and individuals from across the political spectrum in demanding the city divert resources away from militarization and towards fighting climate change and protecting Black and brown lives.

The threat of a militarized megadevelopment, and the intersectional, multiracial coalition mobilizing to resist it, bear some striking parallels with the recently-opened police academy in Garfield Park, Chicago — and the youth-led #NoCopAcademy campaign that fought its construction nearly six years ago.

Simultaneously, as the climate warms, as storms and disasters worsen, as infrastructure crumbles, and as more and more people are left jobless and houseless, the true reason the political class pumps ever more resources into militarization is being revealed: It’s not to protect against some so-called ​“crime wave” the corporate media constantly fear mongers about, but instead to police the very collapse of capitalism itself. 

Keeping poor and working people at bay while their communities are dismantled, their lands are poisoned, and their lives deemed insignificant can only be achieved through brute force. We are witnessing the robber barons barricade themselves in, sealed away from the catastrophes they created, with the same resources they stole from the people on the other side of the wall. 

No Cop City Anywhere. Chicago’s #NoCopAcademy campaign and #StopCopCity in Atlanta are part of the same movement: to end violent policing, protect the environment and defend Black and brown lives by BENJI HART, In These Times, FEBRUARY 22, 2023

As one example, solidarity is being built to support cities facing proposed construction of huge police training facilities. Some of these projects are referred to as No Cop City (Atlanta), No Cop Academy (Chicago), and Detroit Cop City (Detroit).

Since april 2021, police abolitionists and environmentalists have been engaged in a furious struggle to prevent the destruction of a precious stretch of forest in Atlanta, Georgia, where the government aims to build a police training compound and facilitate the construction of a giant soundstage for the film industry. In this essay, participants in the movement chronicle a year of action, tracing the movement’s victories and setbacks and exploring the strategies that
inform it. This campaign represents a crucial effort to chart new paths forward in the wake of the George Floyd Rebellion, linking the defense of the land that sustains us with the struggle against police.

CrimethInc. is a rebel alliance—a decentralized network pledged to anonymous collective action—a breakout from the prisons of our age. We strive to reinvent our lives and our world according to the principles of self-determination and mutual aid. | USA, May 2022

Environmental Justice

The term “environmental justice” recognizes that environmental “bads” are not distributed evenly. Over generations, the effects of systematic racism concentrate environmental “bads” among the marginalized. Specifically, those cumulative effects concentrate the “bads” among people of color.

In June 2022, Kwame Olufemi of Community Movement Builders told 11Alive News, “If you know anything about Atlanta at (all) then you know the places that flood the most are on the south side … In destroying the forest they’re going to exasperate those issues they’ve already had with peoples town flooding … It’s clearly not for us, it’s not for our community, and it’s going to be adverse to us and our people.”

“Cop City is a catalyst for further nationwide militarization of the police and the continued expansion of the surveillance state,” Defend the Atlanta Forest argues. “This development would remove a natural barrier to flooding and pollution for communities downstream … These [effects] would primarily affect BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] communities in Dekalb County that the city has chosen to ignore.”

The effort to save Atlanta’s Forests by Sean McShee, The Wild Hunt, June 14, 2022

The campaign to defend the forest in Atlanta, Georgia has become one of the most vibrant movements of the post-Trump era, interweaving environmentalism, abolitionism, and the fight against gentrification. Yet as police shift to employing lethal violence and indiscriminate terrorism charges, it has reached a critical juncture. Participants explore how this struggle has developed over the past year, reflecting on the practices that have given it strength and analyzing the challenges before it.

Our society is at a crisis point. Decades of escalating economic pressure have created rampant inequality and desperation. Rather than addressing the root causes of these, politicians across the political spectrum continue channeling more and more money to police, relying on them to suppress unrest by force alone. This dependance has enabled police departments and their allies to consume a vast amount of public resources. Meanwhile, driven by the same economic pressures, catastrophic climate change is generating hurricanes, forest fires, droughts, and widespread ecological collapse.

In this context, starting in April 2021, a bold movement set out to defend a forest in Atlanta, Georgia, where local politicians and corporate profiteers want to build a police training compound and a soundstage for the film industry. The training compound, known as Cop City, would be the largest police training facility in the United States. It would devastate the South River Forest, also known as Weelaunee Forest in honor of the Muscogee Creek people who lived there until they were deported in the Trail of Tears.

The Forest in the City. Two Years of Forest Defense in Atlanta, Georgia, Crimethinc, 2023-02-22

The Atlanta Police Foundation has plans–backed by $60 million in corporate funding and $30 million in taxpayer money–to build an enormous police training facility over the city’s Weelaunee Forest.

Activists and forest defenders are calling the plan “Cop City,” as it will include a mock village (complete with a nightclub), a Black Hawk helipad, an emergency vehicle driving course, dozens of firing ranges, and an area for explosives training.

The neighborhoods that surround the forest are largely made up of lower-income Black residents. Cop City will decimate green space, which is already so rare in BIPOC communities, and replace it with a playground for the police to practice warfare tactics.

Communities of color live with police-induced trauma every day. Now this Atlanta community will feel and hear the presence of a training facility where cops learn new ways to enact violence against Black and Brown communities, right in their own backyard.

In addition to the terror of an ever-present police force, Cop City is an environmental racism nightmare. The Weelaunee Forest provides ecological relief for the people of Atlanta. It offsets stormwater runoff, which might otherwise push unwanted sediment into the drinking water. The mere presence of trees helps to keep the city cool during the long, hot, humid summers, and improves air quality by reducing carbon dioxide released into the air.

Cop City has been gaining nationwide attention, and for good reason. The city of Atlanta, its police force, and its corporate sponsors are actively cooperating to increase police power, at a time when police departments are under scrutiny for abusing that power.

Cop City will do irreparable harm to the city of Atlanta, and inspire more play villages for cops across the country. But there’s hope. Cop City does not have the full funding necessary to scale the project from private entities, meaning there is still time to put pressure on these investors to halt all funding to the Atlanta Police Foundation and APF Support Inc.

Sign the petition to private investors: No massive police training complex. Stop Cop City!  

Dozens of protesters made their way through downtown Detroit Friday afternoon before halting to a stop in the middle of Congress and Griswold, blocking traffic and prompting angry drivers to blare their horns. 

“Stop Cop City!” the crowd chanted. “I am…a revolutionary!” 

The march followed a rally with members of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Michigan Liberation, Detroit Will Breathe and several other social and environmental justice groups in a show of solidarity with protesters in the Atlanta area. For nearly two years, organizers and activists in Georgia have been protesting against “Cop City,” an 85-acre, $90 million police training center being developed in a forested area near Atlanta. In recent weeks, the “Stop Cop City” movement has spread across the country after an environmental protester defending the Georgia forest was killed by state police, and more than a dozen protesters were arrested. 

In Detroit, protesters Friday spoke in opposition to a similar situation in Michigan – the expansion of Camp Grayling, a military training facility in the northern part of the state. Last year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources began notifying locals that the National Guard wants to lease 162,000 acres of state-owned land across several counties, more than doubling its current training grounds, reported Bridge Michigan. The Guard said it needs the land to make Camp Grayling a destination for year-round cyber, electronic and space warfare training.

Detroit ‘Cop City’ rally held in solidarity with Atlanta environmental defenders by Micah Walker and Jena Brooker, Bridge Detroit, February 24, 2023

This morning (1/31/2023) a number of people who are involved in justice work in central Iowa gathered at the offices of the law firm that represents Corporation Services Company. Which in turn represents U.S. Multifamily Capital Markets at Cushman and Wakefield. John O’Neill is the President of U.S. Multifamily Capital Markets. He sits on the executive committee board for the Atlanta Police Foundation, which is building “Cop City” in Atlanta. Where Manuel Teran (Tortuguita) was killed by police who were clearing tree sitters from the proposed construction area.

Following are some of the photos I took at our action that morning.

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