The training center was announced in 2021 by then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as the city sought to combat violent crime. It’s located on 85 acres in southwestern DeKalb County inside the South River Forest. The city has pledged to preserve hundreds of acres of greenspace on the site, but opponents worry about the negative environmental impacts on the area.
The documentary, currently in development, will include on-the-ground reporting and speak to key subjects who will attempt to explain why this training center has become such a contentious project.
The film and podcast will chronicle how politicians lined up to support the need for a modern training hub to replace the city’s aging facilities. But as Atlanta attempts to move ahead with the project, pushback has come in multiple forms: hours of public comment to the city council, an effort to get its construction overturned on the ballot, forest occupation and other direct action protests from a variety of community, justice and environmental groups and activists.
An anonymous faction of activists opposed to the center claimed responsibility for a November fire that burned multiple vehicles at a concrete business; the arson followed a weekend gathering and a march to the site.
The podcast and documentary will also explore the death of protester Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, shot to death by police in January, and the 42 people arrested under suspicion of domestic terrorism. More than 60 people are also facing RICO charges.
The Georgia Attorney General’s Office is seeking to introduce Teran’s diary into evidence in the RICO case. Authorities have said Teran fired first and the prosecutor assigned to the case announced no charges would be filed against the officers involved. The diary, collected along with Teran’s gun, tent and shell casings collected after the shooting, is filled with phrases such as “Cop cars love being on fire,” “Prisons were built to be burnt down,” “Burn police vehicles” and “Kill cops!”
One entry is titled, “Killing cops is okay.” A separate entry states, “if the cops kill me, I want you to riot, burn down their stations and set their cars alight.”
Teran’s family and friends have described the activist as peaceful, loving and helpful. At a recent march to protest the training center activists carried signs reading “Defend the forest/Defund the police” as well as “Viva Tortuguita.”
“‘Cop City’ is uncovering a timely and relevant story that affects those in our own backyard,” said Donald Albright, CEO of Tenderfoot TV. “We’re honored to partner with Ventureland and Campside, whose impact goals align with ours, and to make something the way we know best: through documentary-style storytelling, no matter the medium.”