ATLANTA - Dozens of protesters took to the steps of Atlanta’s city hall Sunday evening to speak out against the construction of a massive police training facility in DeKalb County.
The city council is expected to approve a scaled-back proposal at its meeting on Monday.
Councilmember Joyce Sheperd said that amid an uptick in crime, a shortage of officers, and a morale crisis in the police department, the facility is badly needed.
"Where our police officers are right now in terms of their facilities, we’ve had to move them out," she said. "The facilities are a dump, and we literally had to move them out because of mold, mildew, sewage overrun, leaking buildings."
However, activists with the "Stop Cop City" movement, say that the training facility will neither help the city’s crime problem nor fractured relations between police and Black and brown communities.
Demonstraters gather outside Atlanta City Hall on August 15, 2021
"We don’t believe that better-trained police officers is what the solution is to any of this," said Shafeka Hashash, chair of the Atlanta chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. "We in fact believe that if that funding does exist, it should go into community support and actually meeting the needs of community."
The original proposal called for the city to lease 150 acres of the site of the former Atlanta prison farm to the Atlanta Police Foundation, which would cover the costs of building the facility. Last week, the council’s finance committee amended it to 85 acres, while moving to preserve the remainder as greenspace.
"At the public safety meeting this past week we talked about all of the listening sessions we had and actually made some amendments based on the listening sessions," Sheperd said.
Several residents opposed to the facility say they were unable to voice their opinions during the two virtual listening sessions hosted by the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Hashash said that the development of the land, which is out of Atlanta’s city limits, would harm the surrounding community and hurt the environment.
"If corporate developers have $80 million for Cop City, then somehow the city should be able to pull in this money to actually address community needs," said Hashash. "Not a soul has expressed support in Councilwoman Shepherd‘s district, in the district where the forest is being torn down to build Cop City."
Sheperd said she canvassed the neighborhood and found that people largely supported it. In response to the environmental concerns, Sheperd said that for every tree removed during construction, 100 hardwood trees.
"Every meeting the community is talking about crime, how high it is, where are the police?" Sheperd said. "We’re short over 200 police in the city of Atlanta and don’t have a facility that we could train them in."
Atlanta City Councilmember Joyce Sheperd
Hashash said she believes the measure will pass the council, but vows the Atlanta DSA will continue its efforts to defund the police.
"We just believe that Councilwoman Shepard isn’t actually listening to her own constituents and she is doing what she wants to do to support the Atlanta police foundations funders," she said.
The vote is scheduled to take place during the council’s meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday.
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