Showing posts with label #CopCity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #CopCity. Show all posts

Thursday, October 12, 2023

State contracting with 20 firms for $415M law enforcement training project

BY:  - OCTOBER 12, 2023 

Tennessee is hiring nearly 20 contractors to build a massive $415 million law enforcement training center on state property in Cockrill Bend.

State officials broke ground recently at the 600-acre site, located near Riverbend Maximum Security Institution where Death Row inmates are housed in north Nashville, joined by law enforcement leaders from across the state. 

Department of Correction and Department of Safety and Homeland Security offices will be housed there, along with training facilities for state troopers and officers, including dorms, a driving track and K-9 kennels.

“This site represents one of the best examples of inter-agency cooperation Tennessee has ever seen,” Brandon Gibson, chief operating officer for Gov. Bill Lee, said at a recent ceremony. “It represents the future of law enforcement training in Tennessee, and this site represents the governor’s and the General Assembly’s dedication to law enforcement in this state.”

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, both members of the State Building Commission, supported the project, and Gov. Bill Lee credited their backing with helping fund it. Sexton noted it provides a “long-term vision” for the future of law enforcement training.

Lee said he started touring law enforcement training facilities statewide to check on conditions after he took office nearly five years ago.

“I remember walking through facilities where tiles were missing and 40-year-old bathrooms and bunk rooms that I wouldn’t want to stay in, and I got a vision that day, almost four and a half years ago that we needed to do something different,” Lee said.

Though the governor appeared to take responsibility for birthing the project, the Department of General Services started work on the law enforcement training center as early as 2017, if not earlier, before Lee won his first election.

I’m not a big supporter of it because of the nature of it, but I do support our police officers in training because I believe this is going to be a combination with the FBI.

– Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville

Only about five state lawmakers turned out for the groundbreaking ceremony two weeks ago, none of them representing Davidson County.

Democratic state Rep. Vincent Dixie, whose district contains the property, said he received an email blast inviting lawmakers shortly after the governor’s special session on public safety ended but that it wasn’t the normal protocol and he didn’t see it and, thus, didn’t attend. The governor’s office usually calls lawmakers to invite them to a special event in their district, he noted.

Dixie has mixed emotions about the project. He wants to avoid a “Cops City” such as the center built in Atlanta, and he believes officers should go through “cultural sensitivity” as well as technical training.

“I’m not a big supporter of it because of the nature of it, but I do support our police officers in training because I believe this is going to be a combination with the FBI,” Dixie said.

Besides the law enforcement training center, the Lee Administration put $150 million into a violent crime prevention fund, $60 million toward state trooper bonuses and funding to hire 200 more highway patrolmen.

A portion of the property lies within the floodplain of the Cumberland River, but the state doesn’t plan to construct any major buildings in those areas, and other steps are being taken to minimize the impact of a potential flood, according to Parks.

Contractors lined up

The state opted to go with multiple construction managers based on efficiency and risk management. It also hired several design firms because of the size of the job and specialized components such as housing, dining, infrastructure, and various simulated training areas that required certain knowledge.

Breaking the project into “smaller sub-projects” allows the state to evaluate designers and construction managers for each section, said Michelle Sandes Parks, a spokeswoman for the Department of General Services.

The method also allows the state to bring in the contractor earlier to help with design elements such as “constructability,” obtaining materials, putting together estimates and scheduling to minimize risks on timing and costs, she said.

Environmental consulting: $750,000

Environmental remediation: $1.5 million

Survey services: $475,000

Design and contingency: $19.2 million

Consultant services: $2.5 million

Commissioning: $1.5 million

Preconstruction: $1.08

State’s equipment: $9

State furniture fixtures: $17.25

Moving services: $1.02

Technology/phone: $8.3 million

Audio/video equipment: $3.37 million

Security: $4.65 million

Administration: $41.9

“In the end, there is no guarantee that a single construction manager or even the use of a different delivery method would cost the state less,” Parks said in a statement.

Kline Swinney Associates is slated to do the master planning and coordination for the entire project while EnSafe Environmental is conducting environmental studies and testing along with Smith Seckman Reid (SSRCx), which is involved in commissioning and testing.

The state is using what is called a construction manager method for the project, a situation in which the state negotiates a cost with a contractor, which then works with the designer to complete the job, taking on a bit more risk. Because of the project’s magnitude, construction managers are being used on every facet.

The construction cost is $287.8 million, but the total cost includes several other factors. (See box at right.) 

The state put $23 million in the fiscal 2021-22 budget and $355.6 million in the fiscal 2022-23 budget for the project. Another $5 million is coming out of Department of General Services operating funds and $31.5 million is coming out of a reserve fund.

The Department of General Services was unable to provide a breakdown for the amount it will be paying each contractor.

  • AECOM and Barge Civil Associates will handle design for infrastructure and site work, and Environmental Abatement Inc. is doing demolition work. No construction manager has been hired for that part of the work.
  • Kline Swinney Associates will design a firing range complex, and Reeves + Young was approved for construction management. The company was involved in work at the police training facility in Atlanta called Cop City, which has been under protest by groups opposed to building a large law enforcement training complex in a wooded area there.
  • TMPartners is designing the training academy building, and Turner Construction is the construction management contractor for that part of the project.
  • Earl Swensson Associates is designing the housing, dining and kennel building, and Hoar Construction is the construction management contractor for that part of the project.
  • The Pickering Firm is doing design work for a track on which to train emergency vehicle operators. The construction management contractor hasn’t been hired.
  • Anecdote Architectural Experiences will design the headquarters building, and Messer Construction will be the construction manager. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Georgia’s RICO Law Is in the News—but Its Use to Silence Protesters Gets a Pass

Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law, modeled on the federal statute designed to attack mob bosses, has been in the news a lot, ever since  Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis used Georgia’s law to charge former President Donald Trump and his associates with attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
CNN: The dangerous precedent set by Trump’s indictment in Georgia

CNN op-ed (8/26/23) criticized the RICO indictment of  Donald Trump because it could “open the door to unwarranted prosecutions of others.” But when Georgia initiated one of those “unwarranted prosecutions” just a few days later, CNN ran no critical op-ed.

And with the news has come the inevitable hand-wringing about whether the RICO charges against Trump were a good idea. CNN (8/26/23) published an op-ed questioning whether the indictments were too broad, saying, “Casting a wide net can also raise serious First Amendment issues.” One New York Times op-ed (8/29/23) worried that the case against Trump was overly complex, offering him the ability to mount a strong defense by delaying the proceedings.

Trump and his supporters are fond of framing the charges as a political hit against the ex-president and an attack on free speech, as if a mob boss can invoke the First Amendment when ordering the killing of a police informant. New York (8/17/23) did offer some valid criticism of the use of RICO laws, saying they have often been used for reactionary ends: 

The immediate concern is its continued legitimization of RICO laws, which are overwhelmingly used to punish poor Black and brown people for their associations, not would-be despots like the former president.

But when a new example arose of RICO being used to punish the powerless rather than the powerful—coming from not only the same state but from the very same grand jury—such cautiousness was hard to find in corporate media.

Accused of militant anarchism

Mo Weeks: Solidarity? That's anarchist. Sending money? Printing a zine? That's anarchist.

Interrupting Criminalization’s Mo Weeks (Twitter9/5/23) noted that the Cop City indictment included this passage: “Anarchists publish their own zines and publish their own statements because they do not trust the media to carry their message.” “Don’t trust the media and want to speak to people directly?” wrote Meeks. “RICO criminal enterprise apparently.”

Georgia’s RICO law was also invoked by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr when he targeted 61 opponents of the construction of Cop City, a sprawling police training center on the south side of Atlanta. The case against the protests alleges that protesters, some of whom have destroyed construction equipment, are engaged in a conspiracy to stop the complex’s construction, likening even nonviolent political action, commonly used across the political spectrum, to the workings of the Mafia. Joe Patrice at Above the Law (9/6/23) masterfully outlined the difference between the Trump case and the Cop City case: Both indictments include protected speech as “overt acts.” That’s fine. But one indictment identifies the underlying criminal enterprise as election fraud and the other as political protest itself. The latter is actually seeking to criminalize speech.

Patrice explained: If Trump and team actually conspired to commit election fraud by, among other things, inducing legislators to illegally certify phony Electors in Georgia, then otherwise protected speech acts like complaining about fake voter fraud can be overt acts.

In the Cop City case, on the other hand, “handing out leaflets doesn’t tie all that well to property damage” against the construction of Cop City because if “a conspiracy is limited to sabotaging construction vehicles, it’s hard to rope in defendants who weren’t buying equipment to destroy vehicles.”

In addition to the RICO charges, prosecutors charged a bail fund with money laundering and others for domestic terrorism. The indictment calls the protestors “militant anarchists” and incorrectly states the Defend Atlanta Forest group began in summer 2020, even though the indictment also states that the Cop City project was not announced until April 2021.

‘Clearly a political prosecution’

Democracy Now!: “A Political Prosecution”: 61 Cop City Opponents Hit with RICO Charges by Georgia’s Republican AG

Organizer Keyanna Jones (Democracy Now!9/6/23): “This is retaliation for anyone who seeks to oppose the government here in Georgia.”

While the Trump indictment predictably took center stage, the Cop City indictments received a fair amount of down-the-middle, straight reporting (AP9/5/23; New York Times9/5/23CNN9/6/23Washington Post9/6/23). However, compared to the Trump story, corporate media have shown far less concern about the broadness of Georgia’s RICO statute and how it has been invoked to essentially silence dissent against Cop City.

In left-of-center and libertarian media, the criticisms are there. MSNBC (9/7/23) called it an attack on dissent, and Devin Franklin of the Southern Center for Human Rights told Democracy Now!:

I think that when we look at the number of people that were accused and we look at the allegations that are included in the indictment, what we see are a wide variety of activities that are lawful that are being deemed to be criminal, and that includes things such as passing out flyers—right?—a really clear example of the exercise of First Amendment rights. We see that organizations that were bailing people out for protests or conducting business in otherwise lawful manners have been deemed to be part of some ominous infrastructure. And it’s just not accurate. This is really clearly a political prosecution.

The staff and readership of Reason (9/6/23) might not like a lot of the anti–Cop City’s economic and social justice message, but the libertarian magazine stood with the indicted activists on principle: 

To say that the indictment paints with a broad brush is an understatement. Prosecutors speak about “militant anarchists” and their tactics, but also spend a considerable amount of time describing conduct that is clearly protected speech. “Defend the Atlanta Forest anarchists target and recruit individuals with a certain personal profile,” the filing alleges. “Once these individuals have been recruited, members of Defend the Atlanta Forest also promote anarchist ideas through written documents and word of mouth”; such documents “decry capitalism in any form, condemn government and cast all law enforcement as violent murderers.” (All protected speech.)

Unconcerned about protest attacks

AP: 3 activists arrested after their fund bailed out protestors of Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’

Georgia has prosecuted activists even for participating in the criminal justice system (AP5/31/23).

However, corporate media appear unconcerned with the broad use of RICO to prosecute the anti–Cop City protesters. While many “RICO explainer” articles (NPR8/15/23CBS8/15/23) discussing the Trump case mentioned that Georgia’s RICO statute is broader and easier to prosecute than the federal statute—it’s “a different animal. It’s easier to prove” than the federal statute, a defense attorney told CNN (9/6/23)—the notion that this might be in play in the Cop City case was overlooked in many of the articles discussing that indictment (e.g., AP9/5/23CNN9/6/23New York Times9/5/23).

The indictment of the forest defenders is an escalation of previous attacks on free speech, advocacy and free association. Earlier this year, Atlanta police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested three activists operating a bail fund for opponents of Cop City protesters (AP5/31/23FAIR.org6/8/23). An “autopsy of an environmental activist who was shot and killed by the Georgia State Patrol” at an anti-Cop City protest “shows their hands were raised when they were killed,” NPR (3/11/23) reported.

So one might think that even more sweeping prosecutorial action would arouse more suspicion. An opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (9/11/23) admitted that the RICO charges against the protesters were overly broad and thinly supported, making for inefficient prosecution. But the piece seemed dismissive of First Amendment concerns: “Civil liberties groups are howling, saying the indictment is an affront to free speech,” Bill Thorby wrote, adding that “so are the supporters of Trump & Co.”

The Above the Law piece linked above explores and debunks this analogy, but the statement exhibits the lazy journalistic trick of lumping Trump and social justice activists as two sides of the same extremist coin, suggesting centrism is the only legitimate political position.

Anger against Cop City is growing, not just because of the political repression being used against activists, but because the project is the product of  police militarization, whopping spending on security at the expense of other needed services, and the destruction of forest land.

With Georgia’s RICO law in the news because of Trump, the media should be connecting this law to the broad suppression of legitimate dissent in Atlanta. While the prosecution is not going unreported, the urgency of the Orwellian use of state power is not felt in any kind of news analysis or in opinion pieces in the mainstream corporate press. At least not yet.

Research assistance: Pai Liu

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Cop City Protesters Arrested After Chaining Themselves to Construction Equipment

"This movement cannot be won with a ballot alone; we must organize together for mass direct actions if we want to have a chance at protecting our community and saving our planet," said one of those arrested.

Five "Stop Cop City" demonstrators, including faith leaders, were arrested Thursday morning after chaining themselves to construction equipment at Atlanta's proposed Public Safety Training Center just outside of city limits in DeKalb County, Georgia.

The arrestees are Rev. Jeff Jones, a Unitarian Universalist volunteer community minister; Rev. David Dunn, a Unitarian Universalist minister; Ayeola Omolara Kaplan, an Atlanta-based revolutionary artist; Atlanta resident Lalita Martin; and Georgia resident Timothy Sullivan, according to the Atlanta Community Press Collective.

The Atlanta Police Department (APD) said in a statement that "those five people have been taken into custody and we are working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation regarding charges on these individuals. Around this same time, approximately 25 people gathered outside the site to protest."

Protesters were arrested in Georgia on September 7, 2023. (Photo: Atlanta Police Department)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreported that protesters outside the construction site of the contested 85-acre facility chanted "Cop City will never be built."

Photos shared on social media showed demonstrators carrying signs that said "#StopCopCity," "No Cop City on Stolen Land," and "The People's Injunction: Stop Work Order."

A notice protesters posted on metal fencing said that the people were shutting down the project for violations including "destruction of a forest, destruction of the public trust, polluting Intrenchment Creek, violating the will of the community, undermining the democratic process."

"We have tried to get justice in the courts, we have tried to get justice using our politicians, and unfortunately, they have betrayed and failed us," said Mary Hooks of the Movement for Black Lives, according to the AJC. "So when our government systems fail, that is when the people must stand up and take action."

"Anytime somebody puts their bodies on the line for the cause," added Hooks, "it was worth the risk."

The "people's injunction" to halt construction came after Georgia Republican Attorney General Chris Carr announced Tuesday that a grand jury indicted 61 Stop Cop City protesters under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Omolara Kaplan, one of the demonstrators arrested Thursday, said in a statement that "there is a war happening against protesters. If we don't stand up for our right to protest now, standing up in the future will be in vain. Cop City is in the process of being built and this can only continue if we allow it."

The protester also highlighted an effort by Cop City opponents to collect signatures for an Atlanta referendum to block the project—and the pushback from political leadership in the city, such as a related verification process that critics have denounced as a form of voter suppression.

"As Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens fights against our right to stop Cop City via the ballot, we must continue our struggle to stop the project with direct actions like sit-ins, boycotts, and blockades," said Omolara Kaplan. "This movement cannot be won with a ballot alone; we must organize together for mass direct actions if we want to have a chance at protecting our community and saving our planet."

Related Posts:

Thursday, April 20, 2023

'Obliterates the Police Narrative': Autopsy Shows Forest Defender Killed by Cops Never Fired Weapon

"Evidence Terán was executed is overwhelming," said a human rights lawyer after DeKalb County's autopsy report found no gunpowder residue on the hands of the activist whom police shot 57 times in purported self-defense.

Progressives expressed disgust Wednesday after DeKalb County released an autopsy showing that cops shot Atlanta forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán 57 times and that there was no gunpowder residue on the victim's hands—debunking the government's claim Terán fired first.

The autopsy, which officials suppressed for three months, finally saw the light of day thanks to a public records request. Its results have prompted accusations of an attempted cover-up by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

"The GBI—the entity 'investigating'—clearly tried to craft a cover-up of an apparent police murder and failed."

Terán, commonly known as "Tortuguita," was killed during a January 18 raid on an encampment in the Weelaunee Forest. They were part of a collective that occupied the suburban Atlanta forest in a bid to prevent the construction of a $90 million, 85-acre police and fire training facility popularly known as Cop City.

The GBI has alleged that Terán shot and injured a state trooper before multiple officers from a joint task force returned lethal fire. But the autopsy found no gunpowder residue on Terán's hands, in addition to revealing that cops riddled the 26-year-old activist's hands, torso, legs, and head with nearly five dozen bullets.

"Terán did not fire a gun which obliterates the police narrative," human rights lawyer Steven Donziger tweeted. "Evidence Terán was executed is overwhelming."

"Georgia police buried the official autopsy of Terán for months until it was forced into the open today by a public records request," Donziger added. "The GBI—the entity 'investigating'—clearly tried to craft a cover-up of an apparent police murder and failed."

"Now that the cover-up is unraveling, will the public demand accountability?" the Atlanta Solidarity Fund asked on social media. "Will [Georgia State Police] get away with murder?"

In a statement, Tortuguita's mother, Belkis Terán, said, "We are devastated to learn that our child, our sweet Manny, was mercilessly gunned down by police and suffered 57 bullet wounds all over their body."

While the official autopsy report provides additional information, Tortuguita's loved ones continue to demand answers from the GBI, whose probe of the incident is ongoing.

"We cannot even begin to determine what happened on the morning of January 18 until the GBI releases its investigation," said family attorney Brian Spears.

His partner, attorney Jeff Filipovits, concurred: "There is no conceivable reason to continue to delay the release of its investigation. Only then can our clients and the community fully assess what happened in the moments leading up to Manuel's death."

Family members continue to question the GBI's ability to fairly probe the events of January 18 given that the bureau was involved in planning and executing the forest clearance operation that led to Tortuguita's death.

"Manuel was camping on publicly owned land that was not even on the future site of Cop City. Law enforcement went in with weapons and shot pepper balls," said Tortuguita's father, Joel Paez. "They created a violent situation and were ready to kill anyone who resisted. Now they will not even meet with us to explain what happened."

Tortuguita's family continues to urge the GBI to publish the results of its inquiry now, including forensic test findings, all audio and video recordings of the shooting, and interviews with officers involved.

"We are devastated to learn that our child, our sweet Manny, was mercilessly gunned down by police and suffered 57 bullet wounds all over their body."

Following the release of Tortuguita's autopsy, Bernice King, daughter of slain civil rights organizer Martin Luther King, Jr. and a longtime Atlanta resident, posed a question about the future of Cop City: "How could this info regarding the police shooting of a protester of the Public Safety Training Center NOT raise more concerns about the center's placement and purpose?"

The Atlanta City Council gave the Atlanta Police Foundation, a private organization, permission to build Cop City in 2021, four years after the Atlanta City Planning Department recommended transforming the Weelaunee Forest—deemed one of four "city lungs"—into a massive urban park.

Several forest defenders were detained and charged with felonies—under a 2017 Georgia law that expanded the definition of "domestic terrorism" to include certain property crimes—during mid-December raids on their encampment.

More forest defenders were arrested on the same charges on January 18, the day police fatally shot Tortuguita—the first or possibly second time that police have killed an environmental activist in modern U.S. history, according to experts.

Additional people are facing prosecution as a result of Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's crackdown on demonstrations held since Tortuguita's killing.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced what they called a "compromise" for Cop City in the wake of Tortuguita's killing, but opposition to the project remains strong among local residents.

"Cop City is something that no one in the community asked for, and survey after survey shows that the majority of Atlanta residents are opposed," Kamau Franklin from Community Movement Builders, one of the organizations fighting against Cop City, said in February. "The mayor continues to run roughshod over the desires of the community."

Days after cops killed Tortuguita, a coalition of more than 1,300 progressive advocacy groups published a letter demanding an independent investigation as well as the resignation of Dickens, a Democrat who they said parroted "the rhetoric of extreme right-wing Gov. Brian Kemp" when he condemned protesters rather than police officers following the shooting.

The groups pointed out that Dickens and the Atlanta City Council have the authority to terminate the land lease for Cop City and implored local policymakers to do so immediately.

The effort to halt the construction of Cop City suffered a major setback last week, however, when "the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected an appeal of the project's land development permit," Axios reported.

Ikiya Collective, a signatory of the coalition's letter, warned earlier this year that the training set to take place at Cop City "will impact organizing across the country" as police are taught how to repress popular uprisings.

"This is a national issue," said the collective. "Climate justice and police brutality are interconnected, which is why we are joining the Stop Cop City calls to action with the frontline communities in Atlanta."

This article originally appeared at on April 20th, 2023.  

Related Posts:

‘People Have Been Protesting Against Cop City Since We Found Out About It’, FAIR 

Vigils For Tortuguita: Land Defenders Erupt In Solidarity, Progressive Hub

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

‘People Have Been Protesting Against Cop City Since We Found Out About It’

Janine Jackson interviewed Community Movement Builders’ Kamau Franklin about the fight against Cop City for the March 17, 2023, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. 

Janine Jackson: The clearing of land, including forests, in South Atlanta, to build a gigantic police training complex brings together so many concerns, it’s hard to know where to begin.

NPR : Autopsy reveals anti-'Cop City' activist's hands were raised when shot and killed

NPR (3/11/23)

The January police killing of a protester and environmental activist known as Tortuguita, whose autopsy suggests they were sitting down with their hands raised when cops shot them multiple times, is a flashpoint illuminating a constellation of harms proposed by what’s been dubbed “Cop City,” as well as resistance to them.

Our guest is in the thick of it. Kamau Franklin is founder of the national grassroots organization Community Movement Builders, and co-host of the podcast Renegade Culture. He joins us now by phone from Atlanta; welcome to CounterSpin, Kamau Franklin.

Kamau Franklin: Hey, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Cop City seems to bring together so much that is wrong and painful for Black and brown people. But we can actually start with the land itself. The place where this paramilitary police camp is planned has some meaningful history, doesn’t it?

KF: Yeah, this land, which has been dubbed by us the Weelaunee forest, was originally the home of part of the Muscogee nation. The Muscogee nation was the native occupiers of that land, the original occupiers of that land, and they were removed in an ethnic cleansing war by the United States from that land and pushed off.

And since that time period, the land has been used, initially, partly as a plantation, where enslaved Africans were brought to the land and made to work on that land. Later, the land was transferred into a prison farm, where working-class people and poor people and, again, particularly Black folks were put on the land to continue working for the state at, obviously, no wages, being punished and harassed and brutally treated.

The land has also served as a youth imprisonment camp, and the police have done trainings on that land.

So that land has been, over a time period, used for the brutal and harsh treatment of Black people in particular, but also of poor and working-class people.

One quick thing I want to say, also, is that that land, in terms of it being a forest before the invention of Cop City, was promised to the adjacent community, which is 70% Black, as a recreational and park area, particularly as the land re-forested itself over time, park areas where there were supposed to be nature trails, hiking available, parks available, and when the idea of Cop City arose, from the Atlanta Police Department, the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation, all of those plans were scrapped immediately, without any input from that adjoining community, and instead they decided to move forward with this idea of Cop City.

New Republic: Atlanta’s “Cop City” and the Vital Fight for Urban Forests

New Republic (3/9/23)

JJ: I think that’s why folks are talking about, I’ve heard a reference to “layers of violence” at work here. And I think that’s what they’re getting at is, there’s what this place would be for, its purpose, and then there’s also the process of how it is being pushed on people that didn’t want it. And then there’s also the physical, environmental impact of the construction. It’s a lot, and yet they’re all intertwined, these problems.

KF: Yeah, this is a perfect illustration of how the state, vis-a-vis the city, the state government and even, in some ways, the federal government, operate in tandem, and a lot of times, most of the time, it doesn’t matter what party they are, but operate in tandem at the whim of capital and at the whim of a, relatively speaking, right-wing ideological outlook.

And, again, it doesn’t matter which party it is we’re talking about. It doesn’t matter whether or not those folks are Black or white, but an ideological outlook that says overpolicing in Black and brown communities is the answer to every problem.

And so here in particular, you talked about the process. This process of developing Cop City came after the 2020 uprisings against police violence, the 2020 uprisings that were national in scope, that started after Breonna TaylorGeorge Floyd and, here in Atlanta, Rayshard Brooks was killed by the police, and it caused a massive uprising and movement across the nation again.

The response by the authorities here in Atlanta was to push through their plans on building Cop City, to double down on their efforts, again, to continue the overpolicing of Black communities, particularly here in Atlanta. Atlanta is a city that is gentrifying at an astronomical rate. It’s gone from a 60% Black city to one that’s less than 50% in only a matter of 20, 30 years, all of that under Black leadership.

It’s a city that, in terms of those who are arrested, 90% of those who are arrested in Atlanta by the police are Black people; its jails are filled with Black people.

And so this is a city that doubled down on police violence and police militarization after these uprisings.

In addition, we feel like the part of Cop City, in terms of its militarization—over a dozen firing ranges, its mock cities to practice urban warfare, its military-grade structure that it’s bragging about—the fact that its past facility is called the Paramilitary Center, and this one is also going to be a paramilitary center.

In its earliest iterations of what it was supposed to be, it included a landing pad for Black Hawk helicopters, something they’ve now said that they’ve taken out.

This, for us, has been put forth to harass and stop future mobilizations and movements and uprisings against police brutality and misconduct.

Guardian: ‘Cop City’ opposition spreads beyond Georgia forest defenders

Guardian (2/9/23)

It was pushed through the City Council. Seventy percent of the people who called in on the night of the vote voted against Cop City, but yet the City Council members decided to still enact this. And so this has been run over the heads of the community, without community input.

And it is something that we think is dangerous for both the overpolicing, and, as you restated earlier, the environmental concerns of stripping away a forest of 100 acres immediately. This particular area is something that is given to having floods. Once they start stripping even more of the forested area away, there’s going to be even more and increased floods.

The loudness of the shooting, the other things that’s going to be happening, this is going to be something that’s extremely detrimental to the environment, and the continued degradation of the climate, if it is allowed to take place and happen.

JJ: I think folks listening would understand why there are multiple points of resistance, why there are a range of communities and folks who would be against this. Some listeners may not know, people have been protesting Cop City for years now.

But now, Tortuguita’s killing amid ongoing protests has given an opening for corporate media to plug this into a narrative about “violent activists” and “clashes.” And this is par for the course for elite media, but, and I’m just picking up on what you’ve just said, it’s especially perverse here, because we’re seeing community resistance and rejection of hyper-policing presented as itself a reason for more of that hyper- and racist policing. It’s a knot. It’s a real complicated knot here.

KF: No, you’re exactly right. And we should say, again, that people have been protesting against Cop City since we found out about it in 2021. And our protests have been, since its beginning, met with police violence.

When we were protesting at City Hall, doing petition drives, town halls, contacting our legislators, when all that was happening and we were doing protests at City Hall and other places, the police would come and break up our protests.

They conducted over 20 arrests during the early stages of our protest movement against Cop City. At that particular time, people were being arrested for charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration.

LAT: The latest epicenter for anti-police protests: ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta

LA Times (3/15/23)

After they passed the resolution to grant the lease to the Atlanta Police Foundation, and part of our tactics began to have—there were folks who moved to the actual forest and became forest defenders as an act of civil disobedience.

Then the policing agency in Atlanta basically hooked up and created a task force. So the Atlanta Police Department, DeKalb County Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security actually formed a task force where they first began having discussions on bringing charges of state domestic terrorism.

And so in December of last year, they conducted a raid in the forest and arrested approximately five or six people. And those were the first folks who were charged with domestic terrorism.

On January 18, they did a second raid, and they charged another five or six folks with domestic terrorism, and that was the raid in which they killed Tortuguita, the forest defender, activist and organizer who, again, as you pointed out earlier, through a private autopsy done by the family, because the Georgia Bureau of Investigation refuses to release information on their supposed or alleged investigation into this matter, the private autopsy is the first indication we have that the police narrative on how they were killed was a complete lie.

Tortuguita was sitting cross-legged and hands were up to protect their face from the firing directly into their body, they were hit approximately 13 times. And it may be more, but the second autopsy could not determine which were exit wounds and what were entry wounds.

After the killing of Tortuguita, another six or seven protesters were arrested at a rally downtown. And then this past Sunday, during our week of action against Cop City, another 35 arrests took place; 23 of those people were charged with domestic terrorism.

So we now have approximately 41 or 42 people who have been charged with domestic terrorism. And this is a scare tactic meant to demoralize the movement. And it’s also meant to criminalize the movement in the eyes of the larger public.

And this is something that’s been a tactic and strategy of the state since day one. But with the help, as you said, of corporate media, they’re trying to get this narrative out there. And we’re left to fight back against this narrative, which is obviously untrue.

JJ: And it’s been long in the works, and long on the wish list. I remember talking to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard about J20, about people who had been arrested protesting Trump’s inauguration, and the slippery tactics that, not just law enforcement, but also the courts were using to say, you were near a person or dressed similarly to a person who we believe committed a crime against property, and therefore you are swept up in this dragnet and charged with felonies, and with a lifetime in prison.

And let’s underscore, it’s a scare tactic. It’s a way to keep people in their homes. It’s a way to keep people from coming out in the street to use their voice on issues they care about.

Kamau Franklin

Kamau Franklin: “These domestic terrorism charges are purposely meant to put fear in the heart of organizers and activists, not only on this issue, but in future issues.”

KF: Yes, definitely. I think it’s important what you pointed out, I’m sure viewers may have seen pictures of property destruction.

And, again, this movement is autonomous, and people are engaged in different actions. We don’t equate property destruction with the violence that the police have rained on Black and brown communities over centuries, to be clear; we don’t equate the idea of property destruction with the violent killings that led to the 2020 uprisings and the prior violent killings by the police of unarmed Black people over, again, decades.

But what’s important to point out even in these arrests, is that the folks who have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, who are actually involved in acts of civil disobedience at best, the people in the forest who were arrested during the first two raids we spoke about, were people who were sitting in tree huts and sitting in camps under trees, that police had no evidence whatsoever to suggest that they had been involved, either at that time or prior, in any destruction of property.

And even if they did have such evidence, then the correct legal charge would be vandalism or destruction of property. These domestic terrorism charges are purposely meant to put fear in the heart of organizers and activists, not only on this issue, but in future issues, when the state levels its power, it’s going to say that you tried to, and this is how broad the statute is, attempt to influence government policy by demonstrative means—so civil disobedience can be interpreted as domestic terrorism.

And this is the first time in Georgia that the state statute has ever been used. And the first choice to use it on are organizers and activists who are fighting against police violence.

JJ: And are we also going to see, I see Alec Karakatsanis pointing out that we’re also seeing this line about “outside agitators.” You know, everything old is new again. In other words, all these old tropes and tactics, it seems like they’re all coming to the fore here, and one of them is the idea that this isn’t really about the community. This is about people who are professional activists, professional troublemakers, and the phrase “outside agitators” is even bubbling up again. And that’s a particular kind of divide-and-conquer tactic.

KF: Most definitely. We should be clear that the heart of the Stop Cop City movement has been organizers and activists and community members, voting rights advocates, civil rights advocates, who have either been born or who have lived in Atlanta for a number of years.

But that movement has welcomed in people from all across the country to try to support in ending Cop City, whether or not that’s national support that people give from their homes, and/or whether or not that’s been support that people have traveled down to Atlanta to give support to either forest defenders or the larger movement to stop Cop City.

We see the language of “outside agitators” as being, as you said, a trope that is born from the language of Southern segregationists, that were used against people like Dr. King, the civil rights movement, Freedom Riders.

And so when we have Black elected officials parroting the language of Southern segregationists, it tells us how far we’ve come in terms of having representative politics, where basically you have Black faces representing capitalism, representing corporations, representing developers who have turned their back on the working-class and poor Black communities who they’ve helped pushed out of the city, in favor of these corporations, and in favor on strengthening a police apparatus that, again, is going to be used against every Black community that they claim to represent.

JJ: Well, finally, one of the corporate investors in Cop City, along with Home Depot and Coca-Cola and Delta, is Cox Enterprises, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which I understand is editorially supportive of Cop City.

I wonder what you’re making of local media that may be in contrast to national media or international media. And then, as a media critic, it’s strange, but a lot of what I want to say is, don’t follow them, don’t look to media to tell you about what’s happening, about what’s possible, about who matters, because it’s a distortion.

So I want you to talk a little about the resistance for folks, but also, maybe they’re not seeing that resistance in their news media, and there are reasons for that.

KF: We have a couple of reporters, I’ve singled them out, who have attempted at least to give a fair hearing to the struggle around Cop City.

However, the overwhelming local reporting has been in favor, and has led continually with the police narrative, with the city narrative, with the state narrative on this benign training center, as they present it, and these “outside agitators” we spoke of earlier, organizers who are coming in. That’s been the central narrative.

So even when we talk about police violence, they never use the term “police violence.” They only use “violence” in conjunction with the organizers and activists, that’s whether or not a so-called peaceful protest has been taking place and the police arrest organizers. And that’s whether or not there’s this quiet civil disobedience by staying in the woods. Anytime organizers or activists are brought up, they don’t hesitate but to use the word “violence.”

AJC: Crime wave should spur action on center

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (8/21/21)

And so we understand that not only the media that’s directly connected to Cox, which is a funder of the Atlanta Police Foundation and a funder of Cop City, and, as you stated, editorially, has put out four, five, six, editorials that have all been supportive of Cop City, and that have all tried to label organizers and activists as “violent.” But other corporate media, local corporate media, has been on that same bandwagon, except for a few notable exceptions.

We’ve gotten much better press, much, much more favorable hearings, that at least tells our side, from national media, from outlets who have a perspective and understand what organizing and activism and capitalism is vis-a-vis the way the society works, and from international media.

The things that have helped us get the word out to talk about the struggle has been media platforms like this, and others which have a perspective that understands the role of the United States, and the United States government entities and corporations, and how the world is run.

Without that perspective, we would be completely at a loss to get the word out in any way that could be considered fair and/or accurate.

Truthout: Atlanta Was a Constitution-Free Zone During “Stop Cop City” Week of Action

Truthout (3/14/23)

JJ: You want to shout out any reporters or outlets? I would say Candice Bernd at Truthout has been doing some deep and thoughtful things on it. And, internationally, I’ve seen a few things. But if there are reporters or outlets that you think deserve a shout out, by all means.

KF: The Guardian has done a good job of representing organizer and activist concerns. As you said, Truthout. Millennials Are Killing Capitalism, as a podcast, has done a fantastic job. Cocktails and Capitalism has done a fantastic job. We’ve had some good reporting in Essence magazine, actually.

And so there have been outlets that have given us, again, a fair hearing on our views on the history of policing, on understanding capitalist development and capital development and corporate development here, not only in Atlanta, but in other urban cities across the country.

And so we thank those outlets for at least the opportunity to give voice as we fight back against a dominant corporate narrative that is all about supporting the police, supporting violent and militarized policing, and supporting the continued criminalization of movements that fight against it.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Kamau Franklin. He’s founder of the national grassroots organization Community Movement Builders. They’re online at He’s also co-host of the podcast Renegade Culture. Kamau Franklin, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

KF: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Originally published on, March 24th, 2023. Reprinted with permission.