by Brad Beadles, unincorporated Dekalb Resident
Contrary to what police and media may have you believe, protestors against the police training facility and the land swap are not “outside agitators” as they also called anti-war and civil rights activists in decades past. The majority are in fact local residents, families and children that are opposed to an urban warfare police playground being placed in their neighborhood. Although the high profile arrests and charges of domestic terrorism have been levied against protestors encamped on the controversial sites and in tree houses, know that there are far more protestors who have been living in nearby residences for many years prior to the proposal for the training center and the land swap. As residents, we are acutely aware of the issues that plague our community: the highest racial wealth disparity in the country, unaffordable housing, less than living wages, polluted watersheds, rising temperatures from heat island effect, for-profit healthcare during a global pandemic, austerity cuts to education budgets, bloated police budgets, and political deference to wealthy investors at the expense of lower income residents. Each of these issues are highlighted by different aspects of the APF’s proposal and the fraudulent land swap. We have been paying attention because we are living through it and personally experiencing the negative effects of it.
We welcome the help from folks far and wide because we understand that what happens here affects them too. By their own admission in their loan application, APF states that nearly half of police officers trained at their bombing and shooting playground will be brought in from out of state. We are aware of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) that trains Isreali police and military in apartheid repression tactics, such as the dangerous neck-on-neck restraint, digital surveillance, biometric privacy invasion, and chemical weapons training. Those methods will undoubtedly train police here in our community and we are vehemently opposed to such racial violence being administered where our friends and families live.
Having the APF’s police training facility in our county is in direct opposition to everything planned for affordable housing and environmental sustainability. The construction of the project is not environmentally sustainable in any sense. It will eliminate necessary tree canopy that protects us against rising temperatures in the previously agreed upon preservation site of the South River Forest by Atlanta City Council. It will eliminate tree roots that prevent soil erosion into Intrenchment Creek and it will be replaced hot asphalt and concrete. It will eliminate habitat for all kinds of wildlife, a list too long and too diverse to begin to name each type of creature thriving in the lush habitat. It will add acres of impervious surfaces that will speed up rain water as it enters the creek, causing the water to flow faster and higher, causing additional creek bank erosion. With the yet-to-be-repaired Combined Sewer Overflow, any increase in impervious surfaces in the Intrenchment Creek watershed only causes sewage to spill into the waterway sooner after a rain event. The burn site will pollute the air that families breath in the neighborhood. The bombing and tear gassing site will put toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the air and water. The scope of the construction will require an immense amount of carbon production to create the steel and concrete. This neighborhood is already surrounded by landfills and other industrial waste sites. It will only exacerbate the environmentally issues already not being addressed.
The police training facility is also in direct opposition to your goal to provide affordable and stable housing. Not only is it unfair that this “non-profit” is flush with corporate cash, the Atlanta City Council leased the 380 acres for only $10 a year. There is no cheaper rent in Atlanta or Dekalb, hands down. While the neighborhoods surround the facility will be dealing with rising rents and increases in property taxes, the APF is getting a free pass to host their police playground. If our goal as a community is to provide affordable and stable housing, why would we allow the APF to build a mock city full of empty houses that will be used for target practice while there are people living on the streets? Does public safety not include housing people who have been displaced by rising rents, lack of jobs with adequate wages, and insurmountable medical debt to the for-profit healthcare industry amidst a pandemic?
The police training facility should not be built anywhere. If it is not suitable for our own community, it would not be suitable for ANY community. We know that the wealthy communities in the northern area of the county who are calling for the facility to be built would never consent to this facility being constructed in their neighborhood.
All of the words in emails and public statements attesting to racial and environmental justice are nice, but they mean nothing if APF is granted the land disturbance permit. They mean nothing if Ryan Millsap is not held accountable for his numerous violations of stop work orders as well as the letter of the land swap which was brokered on illegitimate grounds against public opinion to begin with. It has been clear that private developers, both APF and Millsap, are willing to flagrantly violate public consent and destroy life in our communities, both human and non-human, in order to pursue short sighted profit and to maintain social inequality. This is the precedent you are allowing to be set and this is the legacy you will leave behind if you continue to do nothing to prevent these egregious acts of environmental racism in your county.
Deny the APF their land disturbance permit.
Rescind the land swap and make Millsap pay for his destructive rampage.