To fill a void of democratic practices in Atlanta, local residents organize the People\’s Town Hall on \’Cop City\’

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Official flyer for DARC/Atlanta DSA\’s upcoming People\’s Town Hall taking place on Thurs., Aug. 5. Courtesy: DARC, 2021.

ATLANTA — Last month, the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation held two virtual sessions regarding the newly proposed 150-acre police training facility that would occupy 381 acres of forested land in unincorporated DeKalb County. The land is historically known as the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, where Black people criminalized by the state were forced to work in the Jim Crow era following the Civil War. Residents in both Atlanta and DeKalb have been growing in an opposition towards the city\’s plans to authorize a ground lease of the land to APF — as slated in a June 7 ordinance by Councilmember Joyce Sheperd that would sell the land to the police foundation for $10 a year.

While APF say they have hosted two public input sessions, residents were met with a 30-minute virtual slideshow and a 30-minute one-sided Q&A segment. You can listen to a straight recording of the Q&A segment provided by The Mainline here. Residents have shared they have not received a follow-up email containing a recording of the session.

The Mainline recounted details of the July 29 session for DeKalb residents here, noting it wasn\’t much different from the July 15 session for Atlanta residents. In both sessions, residents were not given a chance to speak directly to APF representatives and anyone present on behalf of the City of Atlanta; administers of the meeting remained anonymous with cameras off and names not provided, although Felicia Moore could be recognized by voice as Admin 2; questions were seemingly cherry-picked to give to APF representatives; and APF representatives perpetuated mis- and disinformation without challenge or opportunity for residents to challenge. One knowledgeable community member rightly pointed out a falsehood regarding APF\’s comments regarding native species on the land, calling them invasive species, ultimately misleading the public.

Both sessions appeared to be a smokescreen for APF to present their case with no conversation with the public, while claiming they have done exhaustive work with community to select this specific location for the new police training facility. Further, APF and city council members have been unable or unwilling to provide more details on this exhaustive or extensive process with constituents following the listening sessions.

The Mainline has been unable to corroborate APF\’s claims of working with community or their claims of community support with any local residents, and APF has thus far been unable to provide any data or clarifying information to support their claims. Local organizers of Defund APD, Refund Communities (DARC), which is a working group of the Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), have been on the ground canvassing for their Stop Cop City campaign in DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta, notably in districts 1, 5, and 12 throughout the summer. These three districts are adjacent to the prison farm area and district 12 is represented by Councilmember Sheperd, who filed the original ordinance.

Organizers have reported to us consistently following their canvasses that residents are in strong, sweeping opposition, adding that many residents were not aware of the information until organizers spoke with them. According to DARC\’s official press release announcing their People\’s Town Hall, taking place this Thurs., Aug. 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Neighborhood Church in Candler Park, Not only was this proposal undemocratically moved forward via backroom deals with wealthy donors to the APF, but Joyce Sheperd and the rest of City Council have made it clear that they will choose to listen to these corporate elites over their very own constituents.

For more information on how to join the Stop Cop City campaign, visit StopCopCity.org. You can RSVP for the event here. For those who can\’t attend in person, DARC is encouraging both Atlanta and DeKalb residents to submit a two-minute video recording of their public comment to [email protected].

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