The Consequences of ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta, Georgia

Mia Fox, Sports Editor

The South River Forest and the Weelaunee Forest by the Muscogee Creek people is an important feature in Georgia, featuring walking trails and ecologically rich soil, including being a home for hundreds of animals. 

Many residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the forest are Black, and community planning has neglected the area for years. In 2017, Atlanta’s city constitution agreed upon plans to preserve the forest and make it a historic public amenity. This has resulted in the Stop Cop City movement joining in with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

According to The Appeal, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on the legal system, the original building of the Cop City plan proposes destroying nearly 400 acres of forest land so it can be replaced with an Atlanta-based police and fire training facility. The last thing our environment needs is demolishing more forests and building further negative infrastructure. 

The Atlanta Police Foundation’s website states that the training center will have a built in mock city that will include a nightclub and other buildings for officers to train in, new shooting ranges, burntower cites, as well as a helicopter landing base. 

On January 18, 2023 a police officer shot and killed protester and forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán. This same day, there were at least seven more arrests made by police officers which lead to domestic terrorism charges. This brought national attention to the proposed plan of ‘Cop City’ outside of Atlanta, Georgia. 

After Paez Terán’s death, advocates against Cop City continue to protest the project in the spirit of mourning and resistance.

On the final day of voting for the new training facility, residents called in and left over seventeen hours of public comments and concerns, with a vast majority of them being opposed to the building of Cop City, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. When it came to the voting, Atlanta’s city council barely mentioned the hours of public comments. The legislation approved to lease the land to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the building of Cop City, the final vote was 10 to 4. 

With such a vast amount of land being used for the project, other people’s opinions should be taken into consideration and not left in silence behind the voices in charge. 

Stop Cop City protests have been going on for over a year now, ranging from preschool-led marches holding homemade signs to protesters living in canopies set up in the forest trees in attempts to protect the forest as a whole. These protesters have hosted pot lucks, food drives, dance parties, guided walks through the forest, and have begun planting community gardens. Forest defenders have built tree-sits to stay in that have been obliterated by police raids but this didn’t deteriorate their motives–they continue to rebuild them. 

Advocates for the training facility say that the project is necessary in order to fight crime and improve police morale. They have also stated that there is no alternative location for the facility to be built. These statements have caused lots of backlash amongst the community against the building of Cop City. 

Georgia governor Brian Kemp has deemed this new training facility necessary because of Atlanta’s high crime rates. But how will a training facility stop crime? It will only train police and firefighters to fight crime, not put a stop to it. What our society needs is education and a citywide plan that engages people and helps them build empathy and accountability.