“‘Cop city’ is not just a police training facility for Atlanta. It’s designed to serve as a model for the entire country, and I think Emory students are well aware of the way that the system of policing harms all of us,” she said. “It’s very easy to get caught up in like the ‘Emory bubble’..., but I think students recognize that we have a responsibility to our neighbors in order to uplift their voices.”
Emory spokeswoman Laura Diamond said the university respects and supports “the rights of our students, faculty, and staff to express their opinions on this issue and others.”
“As an institution, Emory does not have any ties to the Atlanta Police Foundation. The safety of our community is one of our top priorities and we work with and support law enforcement agencies and local and state officials on a variety of issues, including public safety,” she said in an email.
Students want the city of Atlanta to back away from the $90 million facility to be built on city-owned forested land in DeKalb County leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has said he is committed to building a training ground for Atlanta’s police and firefighters who have long endured inadequate facilities.
The students contend their schools “have been key propellers” of the project through research partnerships with the police foundation and because six of the colleges’ presidents serve on the board of the Atlanta Committee for Progress. The committee is a public-private partnership that includes several dozen key academic, civic and business leaders and was an early supporter of the training center as a way to reduce crime and boost public safety.
The coordinated actions Monday by students, in different parts of metro Atlanta, was rare.
Georgia Tech students met for study sessions, teach-ins and other activities at the large lawn of Tech Green, while some at Georgia State University planned a town hall. At Agnes Scott College, participants planned a rally and a potluck dinner.
At Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse and Spelman colleges, students intended to put up posters to highlight instances of local police brutality, according to the news release.
Spelman, in a statement, said Black communities in particular “remain justifiably concerned about public safety policies and how policing is administered.” The college also recognized the city’s responsibility “for maintaining public safety and the role that training can play in making needed improvements.”
“We will continue to follow this situation with hopes that the city will also think about using resources to tackle longstanding inequities in communities that are core to achieving a safer city that works for all,” said Spelman’s statement.
At Emory, students expressed concern about the approach to policing, the use of a site that was once Native American land and environmental damage posed by the development.
Wittika Chaplet, an Emory senior who spoke using a megaphone, said the goal is to show “students are united on this issue.”
“The city of Atlanta... or the Atlanta Police Department, has barely even pretended that they are acting in the interest of anyone. They’ve been un-transparent,” Chaplet said.
The project has drawn opposition throughout the city and country. In January, the activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran was killed by Georgia State Patrol troopers at the site. Students talked about that incident and about police misconduct. An investigation into the shooting is ongoing.