In Atlanta, residents are using the existing democratic systems under capitalism to fight the construction of a multi-million dollar training ground for militarized police repression, and finding those systems lacking. Meanwhile, in socialist Cuba, the people and the government collaborated on formulating the world’s most progressive family code. Is it possible to have democracy under a capitalist system? Under a different economic system, such as socialism, what would democracy look like? Mariah Parker, Stop Cop City activist, labor organizer with the Union of Southern Service Workers, and rapper, spoke to over 300 attendees of the Dilemmas of Humanity: A Socialist Horizon conference in Atlanta on September 2, as part of a panel discussion on Socialism and Democracy.
The Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition in Atlanta submitted more than 116,000 signatures on Monday to put a referendum about the embattled police training complex on the ballot for local voters, but city officials quickly refused to validate the signatures and move the petition along due to an ongoing legal fight over the signature-gathering process. Stop Cop City activists accused Atlanta officials of once again subverting democracy after moving forward with the construction of the 85-acre, $90 million police training complex, despite months of fierce protest and loud community opposition to a facility that activists say would further militarize Atlanta cops.
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. 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.”
For the past two years, calls to “stop Cop City” and “defend the Atlanta forest” have shaken the political and corporate establishment of Georgia’s state capital. Although Atlanta City Council has approved a lease and funding for a massive Public Safety Training Center in the city’s Weelaunee Forest, the sustained, popular #StopCopCity movement has effectively halted its construction. In response, local and state government have used a variety of tactics to move things forward — including police raids (which led to the killing of protester Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán), domestic terrorism charges against activists and a highly-controversial “signature verification process” that could undermine a proposed referendum.
Cop cars on fire. Occupations of the Weelaunee Forest. Weeks of action. Volunteers with clipboards, collecting referendum petition signatures in the summer heat. Weekly canvassing. Town halls and open mic sessions. Direct action and civil disobedience. Record-breaking numbers of people showing up for public comment (on three separate occasions!). Regular food distributions and mutual aid. Surveillance cameras smashed. Music festivals in the forest. Comrade care clinics. Protests outside the homes of politicians and CEOs. Trivia night fundraisers at local restaurants. Shareholder divestment campaigns. Wheatpasting, movement art, and diss track competitions.
Thursday morning a group of Cop City activists invoked a “people’s stop work order” and chained themselves to equipment at the construction site for the proposed Atlanta Safety Public Training Center, more commonly known as Cop City. “This is a war happening against protesters,” Ayeola Omolara Kaplan, one of the five activists arrested, said via written statement. “If we don’t stand up for our right to protest now, standing up in the future will be vain. Cop City is in the process of being built, and this can only continue if we allow it.” Kaplan, a self-described Atlanta based revolutionary artist, was joined by Jeff Jones...
The National Lawyers Guild condemns in the strongest terms the state of Georgia’s indictments, announced today, Tuesday, September 5, against 61 people targeted for allegedly being part of the movement to #StopCopCity. These indictments, filed by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, aim to quell the growing, massive public movement to bring an end to the construction of a military police training facility in the Atlanta Forest, and to use RICO, domestic terrorism and money laundering charges to portray a popular movement as an unlawful conspiracy. “The National Lawyers Guild strongly condemns the state of Georgia’s organized effort to silence, criminalize, and punish movements for justice,” says NLG President Suzanne Adely.
More than five dozen activists were indicted on RICO charges last week over the ongoing efforts to halt construction of the city of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center in DeKalb County. The sweeping indictment, handed up last Tuesday in Fulton County, is being prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. A total of 61 protestors have been charged with violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act. Some face additional charges of domestic terrorism and money laundering. Most are not from Georgia.
In recent weeks, New Yorkers have been perplexed by Atlanta Police Department (APD) hiring advertisements plastered throughout the MTA announcing recruiting events in New York City. On Saturday afternoon, one of those events took place at the New York Hilton Midtown. A group of around 100 protestors chanting “From ATL to NYC, stop Cop City!” gathered on the sidewalk outside the hotel in opposition to the interstate recruitment. The demonstration drew a wide variety of participants.
Who was Fani Willis protecting when she used Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute to put twelve Black educators on trial in 2015? Atlanta, like other major cities, was not caught up in the corrupt influence of racketeers, but of school test score mania. The No Child Left Behind Act punished school districts with low scores, putting them at risk of state takeovers, or of schools being closed. Educators in Georgia, 38 other states and the District of Columbia , succumbed to these pressures and changed test scores to give the appearance that children had reached educational attainment levels when they hadn’t.
Atlanta, Georgia - On Monday, the Stop Cop City Coalition announced it had collected 104,000 signatures on a referendum petition that would allow Atlanta voters to decide whether to overturn the 2021 lease of 381 acres of city-owned land in the South River Forest to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, but it will not turn in those signatures yet, citing an argument by the city that will increase the minimum number of signatures required for the petition to be successful and concerns that city officials plan to use what the coalition says is a voter suppression technique when validating petition signatures.
Opponents of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center scored another victory today when a federal judge denied the city of Atlanta’s appeal to try to halt the “Stop Cop City” referendum petition drive. The ruling comes as organizers with the Vote to Stop Cop City coalition say they have collected nearly 80,000 signatures, more than the 70,000 goal announced at the start of the campaign in June. U.S. District Court Judge Mark H. Cohen denied the city’s appeal of his ruling last month to allow those living outside the city to collect signatures as part of the referendum petition campaign. His ruling on the preliminary injunction also extended the amount of time to collect signatures.