The corporation reportedly left the APF’s Board of Trustees as Color of Change releases report exposing police foundation ties to Fortune 500 companies, corporate mega-donors following longstanding community organizing efforts against police violence and to Stop Cop City in Atlanta
Updated at 7:00 p.m. EST on Oct. 7: This article was updated to reflect a clarification that, according to Color of Change’s newly-released report, Coca-Cola stepped down from its Atlanta Police Foundation board seat in April 2021. The news of Coca-Cola’s departure from APF was released in Color of Change’s public report and official press release to media.
On Wed., Oct. 7, Color of Change in partnership with public accountability initiative LittleSis released its in-depth report examining the 50-year history of police foundations and corporate partners—a relationship that has enabled police violence nationwide. The report, entitled “Police Foundations: A Corporate-Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives,” is an extensive study of the financial ties between police foundations and corporations, identifying ties to at least 55 Fortune 500 companies. One of the major corporate donors, Coca-Cola, has reportedly stepped down from the Atlanta Police Foundation’s board of trustees in light of Color of Change’s ongoing research which amplifies longstanding local organizing efforts in Atlanta and other cities.
The official report reads that “after several conversations with Color of Change—and being made aware of the harm and violence police foundations support and enable—Coca-Cola stepped down from its Atlanta Police Foundation board seat in April 2021. Coca-Cola was still listed as a sponsor of three 2021 Atlanta Police Foundation events, but has indicated that it asked APF to redirect funds.”
According to Color of Change in its official press release announcing the study and Coca-Cola’s departure from the Atlanta Police Foundation board, this report is the largest known study identifying the “acute threat that police foundations pose to Black and brown communities and democracy.” Color of Change is known as the nation’s largest online racial justice organization and a national online force driven by over 7 million members.
“Corporations bankroll police foundations, and then police foundations use that support to attack common sense reforms, spread misinformation about reformers, and defend the most outdated, violent, and racially biased practices of police officers,” says Color of Change president Rashad Robinson. “Only cutting ties with police foundations will show that corporate leaders are serious about protecting Black lives.”
“Police Foundations: A Corporate-Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives” looks at police foundations in 23 major U.S. cities, including Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, Louisville, Seattle, and Houston. It identifies the corporate affiliations of over 1,200 donors and sponsors. The report, which aggregates the two most recent years of available data, shows that 55 Fortune 500 Companies from across every major corporate sector donate to police foundations including: Bank of America, Truist (formerly SunTrust), Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Chase, BlackRock, Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, Verizon, AT&T, Chervon, Shell, Target, and Walmart.
In Atlanta, home to 16 Fortune 500 companies, local organizers and community members have been galvanizing against the latest public-private development endeavor of the Atlanta Police Foundation and the city: a massive $90 million police and first responders training facility that local activists have dubbed as “Cop City.”
The local campaign known as “Stop Cop City,” a wide coalition swiftly organized following city council’s plans to review the legislation became public, garnered the attention of Color of Change this summer. In August, the organization partnered with Atlanta activists and organizers to amplify the demands to ultimately stop the plans for Cop City.
The city’s plans for the training facility—for which the terms for the ground lease were passed in Atlanta City Council on Sept. 8 following 17 hours of public comment with 70% of constituents demanding their representatives vote “no”—include plans to build a mock city for police to train in, burn towers, explosives testing, new gun firing ranges, and more. The facility will require massive deforestation in the South River Forest, one of the last vital remaining green spaces in the area which scientists say is the city’s greatest defense against climate change.
The land, which is city-owned and located in a low-income Black neighborhood in DeKalb County, is commonly referred to as the Old Atlanta Prison Farm. The land was originally inhabited by the Muscogee Creek Nation which were forcibly removed. Following the Civil War, the land was used for chattel slavey and forced labor of Black and Indigenous people criminalized by the state.
Over the summer, the Atlanta Police Foundation knowingly spread mass amounts of mis- and disinformation through public relations campaigns and local press outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution which regularly platformed former police chiefs, police foundation heads, and politicians in support of the facility in its new “Voices Against Violence” section. The paper’s editorial board even wrote a letter full of propaganda and talking points seemingly stemming from APF while using Reagan-era tough-on-crime rhetoric to pressure council into passing the legislation. This left organizers and other local journalists with the task of debunking numerous claims from APF.
The report urges corporations, policymakers, and community members to divest immediately from police foundations and any law enforcement non-profits, and refuse any positions on police foundation boards; hold hearings, mandate disclosure and require public approval of expenditures to ensure funding is not spent on controversial technology; and examine local police foundations and partnerships that fund militarization and expansion of policing.