Last week, the AJC published an article in which they tried to smear the movement to defend the largest intact forest in Atlanta, Weelaunee Forest, and to stop construction of the largest planned militarized police training facility in the country, known as “Cop City.” Once again failing to disclose their financial ties to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), who want to cut down a minimum of 85 acres of the Weelaunee Forest to build Cop City, the AJC editorial board painted our movement as a small group of violent activists.
They couldn’t be more wrong. The movement to stop Cop City is massive. It brings together a wide array of communities in Atlanta and across the country, and it cannot be defined by one tactic.
It’s everyone who has ever gone to a demonstration opposing the project, who has spent time in the forest taking a walk, breaking bread over Shabbat Dinner, or dancing at a Raury concert.
It’s the preschool children who marched through East Atlanta chanting “don’t cut down the trees.” It’s the journalists who have contributed research to unearth the terrible history of the Old Atlanta Prison Farm. It’s everyone who gathered for the Muscogee (Creek) Stomp Dance in the forest last fall.
It’s everyone who has ever posted online about the proposed facility, called their city councilmember, written an email to the mayor, or talked about their perspective with a neighbor. It’s the people who submitted 11+ hours of public comment opposing the project to City Council, the people who have been ignored by the government officials and local media who are meant to represent them.
It’s everyone who understands that “serious harm” to the community, as the AJC phrased it, does not come from graffiti but from investing in militarized policing that will disproportionately affect Black, brown, queer, and poor people. It’s everyone who believes that “crossing a line” doesn’t look like vandalism, but rather looks like cutting down a forest in the middle of a climate crisis, leading to higher temperatures and increased flooding risk for local residents.
Every step of the way, our movement has faced harsh repression from the Atlanta Police Department (APD). Peaceful protestors have been indiscriminately tackled to the ground, thrown in jail, and released without criminal charges. At one rally in Little Five Points this summer, APD even arrested people who were not protestors at all, but just happened to be in the park that day. Additionally, since 2010 at least 25 Atlanta residents have been killed by APD, including Alexia Christian, Oscar Cain, and Rayshard Brooks. Now, APF, funded by major corporations, is attempting to come into our communities, destroy our precious forestland, and train APD in even more militarized domestic policing.
The evidence is clear: the APF and APD are the perpetrators of violence, not the community members trying to defend the forest. The AJC argues that “a small group of people do not have a license to engage in violent behavior,” but this is exactly what the APF is doing—overriding public opinion on behalf of a privileged few to further repress poor Black and brown people.
And this proposal comes on the heels of the country’s largest uprising, when the people of Atlanta called for less policing, not more.
Because Cop City is so unpopular, APF has had to find ways around the democratic procedures usually required before approving such a project. Emails to the mayor’s office obtained by The Mainline revealed that shortly before the initial vote on Cop City, groups representing major corporations in Atlanta (including Cox Enterprises, owner of the AJC) made open threats to throw their support behind the Buckhead secession movement unless City Council ignored public outcry and forced the project through. Since then, on the rare occasions that city officials have solicited community input, they have acted completely against the wishes of their constituents. The so-called Community Stakeholders Advisory Committee—meant to represent public opinion on the project but in reality stacked with those already sympathetic to APF—even kicked out its only member who dared to oppose Cop City openly.
The AJC, backed by police and monied interests, is trying to erase the voices of the brave neighbors, educators, students, and activists who are standing up against one of the most powerful forces in Atlanta. But we, the people of Atlanta, will not give up. We are committed to building a future in which Black and indigenous people live and thrive on land that is free from violent expropriation. We will defend the forest for our community—that’s the whole point.
If you agree, join us for a Weekend of Action starting with a family-friendly rally in Findley Plaza (Little Five Points) on October 14th at 4:30 pm.
Abolitionist Teaching Network
American Constitution Society, Emory Law School
Atlanta Community Press Collective
Atlanta Radical Book Fair Committee
Color of Change
Community Movement Builders
Community Movement Builders Affiliate Group
Emory Black Studies Collective
Georgia Educators for Equity & Justice
Georgia Freedom Letters
Georgia Human Rights Clinic
Georgia Tech Student Planning Association
The Healing Underground
The Highlander School
Industrial Workers of the World, Atlanta Chapter
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, Atlanta Chapter
Jewish Birdwatchers Union
Liberation Learning Lab
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
On Our Own Authority! Publishing
OUTLaw, Emory Law School
Raise Up the South
Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ)
Women on the Rise
A World Without Police
Youth Community Builders League
Carolina Socialists (University of South Carolina)
Coalition For Wetlands and Forests (Staten Island, NYC)
Community Not Cages (Winona, MN)
Everett Free Grocery Program (Lincoln, NE)
Food Not Bombs (Tallahassee, FL)
Lincoln Community Care (Lincoln, NE)
The Lucy Parsons Center (Boston, MA)
Save Graniteville Wetlands (NYC)
Save the Meadows (Philadelphia, PA)
Stop Cop City LNK (Lincoln, NE)
Suhaib Abaza, MD; Atlanta resident
Phil Anjum, MD; Atlanta resident
Jason Baumunk, 55, West Midtown
Gabriel Eisen, Atlanta resident
Linda Grant, Boulevard Heights
Stephen Gurley, MD; Atlanta resident
Micah Herskind, Adair Park
Michel Khoury, MD; Assistant Professor, Emory University School of Medicine; Co-director, Georgia Human Rights Clinic
Alex Klein; President, Emory OUTLaw, Atlanta resident
Kieran Kristensen, MD; Atlanta resident
Mariah Parker, MA, PhD; former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner
Caitlin Petro; Environmental Research Scientist, Atlanta resident
Dan Resnick, MD; Atlanta resident
Kevin Rymut, MD; Atlanta resident
Abby Scribner, PhD; Atlanta resident
Nick Smith; President, Emory Law School’s American Constitution Society, Atlanta resident
Mark Spencer, MD; Atlanta resident, District 5
Bisrat Woldemichael, MD; Atlanta resident