Atlanta training center opponents plan mass mobilization to the facility site

Four days of gatherings across Atlanta will feature events from concerts to protest training
Protestors against Atlanta’s planned public safety training center, known by some as “Cop City,” gather at Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Monday, August 14, 2023, as Fulton prosecutors present a their election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others to a grand. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Protestors against Atlanta’s planned public safety training center, known by some as “Cop City,” gather at Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Monday, August 14, 2023, as Fulton prosecutors present a their election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others to a grand. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Opponents of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center expect hundreds of supporters to make their way to the South River Forest for a mass mobilization against the project — events that organizers insist will remain peaceful but, they say, will also be an effort to shut down ongoing construction at the site on Monday.

The “Block Cop City” event will bring together local organizers and national activists who say they’ve traveled across the country rallying supporters to meet in Atlanta, starting today and running through Nov. 13.

Both protesters and law enforcement are preparing for the possibility that the intended peaceful demonstration escalates to violence at the site of the facility where construction is, according to the city, already about 40% complete.

Construction of the $90-million training center has already been marred by the fatal police shooting of an environmental activist; a wounded state police trooper in the same incident; a fiery attack on police and equipment at the site that led to dozens of domestic terrorism charges; and facility opponents chaining themselves to an excavator.

It’s unclear what exactly organizers have planned for the protest at the construction site on Monday, but they describe it as “a mass action to shut down all ongoing construction operations at the Cop City site using strategic nonviolent means.”

Sam Beard, spokesperson for the event, said that like with any political or social justice movement, “the stakes are incredibly high.”

“By coming down to Atlanta, there’s a certain element of having to accept those inherent risks,” he said. “...We just believe in this moment, that the risk of inaction far outweighs the risks of action.”

Atlanta officials say the new facility is critical in providing state-of-the-art training to the city’s police and fire divisions. Opponents have a list of concerns, from militarization of police to destruction of the urban forest in which it is being built.

Officials with the Atlanta Police Department said they are aware of the events taking place but offered little insight on how they plan to handle security at the site. Other law enforcement from local and state agencies may likely be involved, too.

“If anyone wants to protest peacefully, they have the full protection of the Atlanta Police Department as they’ve always had,” Chief Darin Schierbaum said. “Individuals that may decide to use violence and intimidation or property damage to try to make a point ... or stop the construction of the training center, we have a plan for that too.”

“As we aggressively protect the right to assemble and protest, we’ll aggressively stop criminal activity,” he said.

Community organizer Kamal Franklin speaks to demonstrators outside of the attorney general’s office in Downtown Atlanta on Friday, September 8, 2023. On Tuesday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced that a total of 61 training center activists have been charged with violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act. (Natrice Miller/

Facility opponents have tried various pathways to stop the project — from lobbying City Council to circulating a petition to force a referendum on the project. But with the petition drive effort tied up in a court battle, protesters are putting down their clipboards and picking back up their picket signs.

“The movement to defend the Atlanta forest and stop ‘Cop City’ finds itself at an impasse where it has to systematically scale-up its resistance to the project or else ‘Cop City’ will be built,” Beard said.

Earlier this week, a large crowd gathered outside of the Fulton County courthouse in support of more than 60 activists who face hefty RICO charges under the state’s racketeering statute. Movement leaders referenced the lengthy list of events on the horizon.

“We will be back again and again for this week of action, for a month of action, for a year of action,” said Kamau Franklin, with Community Movement Builders. “Because as far as we’re concerned, ‘Cop City’ will never be built.”

“Block Cop City” will host a variety of events through Monday, from block parties and concerts to protest and medic training.Activities will also focus on uplifting voices of Black Atlantans who are opposed to the training facility, organizers say.

According to the event’s website, activists have traveled across the country on a speaking tour to spread information about the controversial facility and encourage non-Atlantans to get involved.

“I hope that we inspire folks not just here but all over globally, that there’s a global resistance happening and this is just one piece of that pie,” organizer Mary Hooks said. “We want to inspire more people to continue to get involved, stand up for what is right and make sure the people get the power we need to transform our communities and our lives.”

The 85-acre site is currently surrounded by miles of chain link fences and guarded by law enforcement while the area has been completely cleared for construction. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said last month that the center’s water and sewer systems have already been installed and asphalt will be poured by Thanksgiving. The mayor said construction of buildings will begin by January.

September 7, 2023 DeKalb County: Protesters gathered on Constitution Road (shown here) after five individuals were arrested Thursday morning, Sept. 7, 2023 at the site of Atlanta’s proposed public safety training center after chaining themselves to construction equipment in an effort to halt work. According to the Atlanta Police Department, the training center opponents broke into the construction site off Constitution Road around 9:30 a.m. Thursday. “Those 5 people have been taken into custody and we are working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation regarding charges on these individuals,” the department said in a statement. About two dozen protesters also lined the site in unincorporated DeKalb County, east of Atlanta, in opposition to the 85-acre facility. They chanted “Cop City will never be built” as law enforcement officers amassed. The crowd called the effort “the people’s injunction” to halt construction. “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, with the activist group Movement for Black Lives. “So when our government systems fail, that is when the people must stand up and take action.” The demonstration comes just days after more than 60 anti-training center activists were indicted on racketeering and other charges over the ongoing clash between the city and facility opponents. The indictment mainly focuses on the Defend the Atlanta Forest group, with prosecutors describing it as an “anti-government, anti-police, and anti-corporate extremist organization.” The indictment, handed up by a Fulton County grand jury, is being prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. “Anytime somebody puts their bodies on the line for the cause,” said Hooks, “it was worth the risk.” (John Spink /

Credit: John Spink/AJC

Credit: John Spink/AJC

APD still has officers reassigned from their regular duties to help secure the construction site off Key Road. Schierbaum said that the department is also planning on staffing adjustments and additional deployment of officers to the site during the protest on Nov. 13, if necessary.

Organizers say they’re prepared to encounter a large police presence.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said that the city supports the right to peaceful protest but issued a warning to individuals who may be considering entering the site.

“We want to be clear that violent and other criminal activity will not be tolerated,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “Additionally, the future Public Safety Training Center is not yet open to the public, and anyone positioning themselves on the property may be charged with criminal trespass and subsequently detained or arrested.”

“Block Cop City” leaders say that attendees involved in events — including Monday’s looming protest — will be meeting over the weekend in small groups called “spokescouncils,” which will unilaterally decide on a plan of action for the protest at the construction site.

“We realize that the number one way that everyone can move most safely together and most powerfully together is if everybody is on the same page with what the plan for the day of on Monday the 13th,” Beard said.


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