ATLANTA — On Mon., June 7 — the same day that the Atlanta City Council unanimously voted to increase the Atlanta Police Department budget, District 12 Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd introduced an ordinance to allow Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to issue a ground lease of 381 acres of land at the Old Atlanta Prison Farm to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) for $10 per year. Mainline contributor Nolan Huber-Rhoades brings us an in-depth video report about Sheperd’s ordinance, background on the Stop Cop City movement, and Sheperd’s response to protesters on Wed., June 16.
APF plans to use 150 acres of that land for the development of what organizers call “cop city”—a massive training facility and mock city for the Atlanta Police Department to train in. This ordinance to build cop city on the Old Atlanta Prison Farm shows the direct white supremacist line connecting slavery to convict leasing to policing and the prison industrial complex. It is an attack on Black people, our planet, and humanity as a whole.
This project is built at the intersection of the climate crisis and the prison industrial complex—both of which harm poor people, working people, and Black people at disproportionate rates. On Wed., June 16, the city council’s finance executive committee was set to hear the ordinance and vote on whether or not to send it through the committee, but that did not come without activists and organizers making some noise.
People from all over the city called in to voice their opposition to destroying a forest in order to build cop city. The public comment line was filled with 3 hours and 41 minutes worth of comments, most of which were in opposition to cop city. One young person, who identified herself as Candace Owens, had a particularly hilarious and snarky comment to leave on the public comment line.
In addition to the 3 hours and 41 minutes of public comment, during the meeting, protesters showed up at Sheperd’s house, rang the doorbell, and chanted, “No Cop City! Keep Atlanta green!” while standing outside of her house. Sheperd’s response was a bit heavy-handed. She quickly had units of police cars staged outside of her house for the rest of the afternoon. In addition to Shepherd’s heavy-handed response about protesters not having the right to come on her property, Councilmember Natalyn Archibong said what happened to Sheperd was “appalling.”
But, we have to ask: What is more appalling? The fact that a few protesters rang a politician’s doorbell and chanted about the environment? Or the fact that activists and organizers have been calling into city council for over a year at this point to try to close the jail or reallocate money from the police into services that actually keep our communities safe, and not one of the demands has been met? Better yet, there is no way to tell whether or not city council people even have to listen to public comment. In fact, Sheperd held her press conference during the public comment portion of the meeting when most of the public comments were about her ordinance.
In this report, Huber-Rhoades asks what the community is supposed to do other than show up at her house? The question is, whose interests is Sheperd representing? When faced with the question during her press conference about whether her campaign takes, or will take money from executives on the police foundation, she quickly became an apologist for the police foundation.
The police foundation is an undemocratic institution funded and directed by wealthy Atlantans and c-suite executives who do not pay nearly enough in taxes and receive a tax break when they “donate” their money to the foundation while they use that money to protect their own power, boost their profits, and make Atlanta in their own image. After the public comments, the protests, the press conference, and the council meeting, the council unanimously voted to hold this ordinance for 60 days.