By Nolan Huber-Rhoades
Cinematography by Lorin Dent and Lev Omelchenko
With national news outlets positioned outside the Fulton County Courthouse in anticipation of District Attorney Fani Willis issuing grand jury indictments against Donald Trump on Monday, a crowd gathered in the afternoon before the charges were announced and began to chant, “Donald Trump, Andre Dickens, I don’t know the f—ing difference,” to bring attention to what activists say is Mayor Andre Dickens attempt to subvert democracy in Atlanta.
The chant was led by Atlantans who are opposed to the construction of a new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, known by many as “Cop City”. They showed up to protest what they called the city of Atlanta’s undemocratic posture toward the Cop City Vote campaign. The campaign, which aims to put the fate of Cop City on the ballot through a citywide referendum, needs to collect 58,203 petition signatures from residents in Atlanta who were registered to vote in the 2021 municipal election.
Reverend Keyanna Jones told the crowd, “Mayor Dickens has stated that he doesn’t believe that the people should be able to have a voice when they don’t agree with the course of their government and the decisions that their representatives who have been elected to represent them by the way, but we don’t agree with their decisions.”
On Sunday, the campaign announced they have collected over 80,000 petition signatures but have a goal of turning in over 100,000 signatures in anticipation of the city of Atlanta attempting to invalidate as many signatures as possible.
On July 27, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen ruled in favor of the Cop City Referendum’s lawsuit filed over a city law that limits referendum signature gathering to be witnessed only by city of Atlanta residents.
In their appeal, the city of Atlanta sought to overturn Judge Cohen’s decision allowing anyone to gather signatures for the referendum campaign and resetting the 60-day window in which signatures may be gathered. The city also argued that even if supporters get enough signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, the Atlanta City Council will have no choice but to reject the petition under current Georgia law. On Monday, Judge Cohen denied the city’s appeal and noted that if the city believed the referendum to be invalid, the Municipal Clerk should not have issued the original referendum petition.
Judge Cohen did not issue an opinion on whether the referendum was invalid, noting that such a decision will ultimately be up to the Georgia Supreme Court to consider.
Organizers of the Cop City Vote campaign have been quick to point out the irony.
Community organizer Micah Herskind said, “organizers are highlighting that just as Trump tried to steal an election, Andre Dickens is trying to prevent one from happening at all.”
Regardless of the city’s attempts to invalidate the referendum petition, organizers are confident they will succeed in getting the referendum question on the ballot in November.
“Not only will we get this referendum onto the ballot,” said Jones, “but we will show the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, the United States of America, and the world what happens when people stand up together.”