Atlanta, Georgia - “We are on the timeline in which everyone loses,” a friend once said. It always felt that way. Even though we always tried, all of us, our victories were always innovations in methods, in discourse. Something is changing. In the forest. Across the city. Even more, it’s as if an astral plane has opened up. This plane, if it exists, seems to spiral outward in every direction. Everything is growing from one simple fact: we really intend to win. We won’t let them take everything from us, to pave over everything with condos and parking lots. Hundreds of people ride dirtbikes and ATVs on a Sunday afternoon, giving shared meaning and purpose across three generations of small-time mechanics and adventurers. Music pulses through the trees as small groups find their way down the walking path, dimly lit by glow sticks, dancing beneath the stars for free; no doorman, no cover fee. On the edge of town, apartment complexes split the cost of bounce houses so that all of the children can celebrate birthdays together, sharing food and community in the warm Georgia sun, despite whatever challenges the work week holds.
Activists from throughout the country have converged on Atlanta this week to oppose the construction of the police training facility and the destruction of the forest upon which the project depends. Dubbed “Cop City” by its critics, the 85-acre police training facility carries a price tag of $90 million for its initial phase. In September, 2021, Atlanta’s City Council approved a proposal to construct the facility within a huge swath of forested land in unincorporated DeKalb county southeast of Atlanta. The particular parcel of land slated to become a police training center is the former home of a city-run prison farm, which operated in the area from 1920 to 1989. The facility was used to house prisoners from Atlanta who were forced to work on the farm raising food for the city’s prison population.
On Monday, May 9, around 9:15am, people inhabiting the Atlanta Forest witnessed a bulldozer accompanied by two Dekalb County cops bulldozing a path in Intrenchment Creek Park – a public Dekalb County park directly adjacent to the Old Atlanta Prison Farm. On Monday morning, the bulldozer, marked “Dodd Drilling, LLC.,” destroyed a significant swath of forest, injuring plants and animals in its path. When people nearby learned about this, about 30-40 adults and at least 1 child quickly responded and gathered around the bulldozer, confronting the project managers and police officers on the RC Field. Those gathered shouted “Go home!” and “This is a public park!” The cops had called in reinforcements from Dekalb County, but by the time police arrived, workers were driving the bulldozer back to the parking lot. The police were persuaded to leave by the actions of intelligent people acting quickly and collectively in defense of the land.
A black sedan barreled it’s way into the south power cut blocking off a MAJOR entrance to the woods off Constitution Road across from Black Hall Studios Sunday night, May, 8th, accompanied by a banner that states, “Fuck this World And It’s Cops”– kicking off the, “Week of Action,” to, “Defend the Forest,” in south Atlanta… A huge ass bonfire along with a vast array of fireworks and feral friends silhouetted and serenaded the break in the forest that has now come to be one of the main zones to defend against police incursion into the woods so many people and non-human animals call home. Cop City and Black Hall Studios will NEVER be built as long as Forest Defenders occupy these 500 or so collective acres of woods and comrades continue to engage in the practice that, “solidarity means attack.”
Atlanta, Georgia – Carrying signs decrying “racist traitors,” about a hundred civil rights activists marched and chanted at Georgia’s Stone Mountain on Saturday to protest at the return of an annual celebration of the Confederacy at the foot of a towering monument to the heroes of the South’s pro-slavery past. As dozens of state and local police, including SWAT teams with armored trucks, looked on, the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) with 200 supporters gathered for its celebration, which it says honors the sacrifices of their forebears. The Atlanta NAACP and other civil rights supporters, some using megaphones to try to shout down the event, which it views as a salute to the South’s legacy of racism.
Inside Atlanta’s sprawling South River Forest, city officials are moving forward with plans to raze dozens of acres of woodlands to build a $90 million police training facility that locals are calling “Cop City.” In response, Defend the Atlanta Forest activists who call themselves “forest defenders” have begun occupying the woods in an attempt to physically halt the facility’s construction—sabotaging construction vehicles and building barricades around a police-free autonomous zone that serves as both a living space and staging ground for the resistance effort. The forest defenders say the proposed 85-acre facility, which proponents are calling the Atlanta Institute for Social Justice and Public Safety Training, would harm air quality in the Atlanta area and prioritize policing and social control in a city that desperately needs life-affirming infrastructure such as affordable housing.
They say Atlanta is a city in a forest. What happens when cops, developers, and Hollywood team up to decimate some of the very woods the city claims to treasure? In the last year, a widespread and diverse movement has sprung up to Defend the Atlanta Forest from a secretive proposal to build a police training facility, flanked by a movie soundstage, in a wooded parcel in southeast Atlanta. In this interview from January 30, just days after a major action ending in a handful of arrests, we speak with two participants in the movement about its origins, tactics, and insurgent vision. Their story is of getting ahead of the media, outsmarting the cops, and coming to know the woods through the struggle.
In September 2021, the Atlanta City Council voted to approve the new police training facility for the Atlanta Police Department. The Atlanta Police Foundations, who are largely sponsoring the $90 million dollar project, have referred to the planned facility as a new “Public Safety Training Center.” Activists in the Atlanta area have dubbed it “Cop City” and have been protesting for months to stop the project. On Saturday (February 12), the small area of the Intrenchment Creek trailhead was filled with protestors, there to express their opposition to Cop City. The project — which has the support of Governor Brian Kemp, former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and new mayor Andre Dickens — is planned to be built where the Old Prison Farm now sits and will require deforestation to make room for the facility.
On Tuesday, January 18th, tree-cutting was reported on social media in the Atlanta Forest, an area of highly contested green-space where both a movie studio and the local police are attempting to clear-cut trees to build expanded studio lots and a state of the art police training facility, which will include a “mock city for first responders to train in.” Over the past year, resistance to the project has taken many forms, from militant marches, community forums and BBQs, protests against those funding and helping to carry out the project, to a campaign to pressure local politicians to block the devastation of the forest. The campaign has brought together a wide variety of movements, groups, and communities, each fighting to save the forest and stop an encroaching arm of the expanding police state, known in Atlanta, as “Cop City.”
Atlanta, GA — On Tues., Jan. 18, around 2 p.m., The Mainline received community reports of heavy machinery and tree cutting taking place in the Old Atlanta Prison Farm land located in the South River Forest. The land was originally inhabited by Muscogee (Creek) indigenous peoples before their forced removal in the 1800s. Tribal leaders and members, now based in Eastern Oklahoma, joined with Atlanta organizers in the #StopCopCity coalition in a historic migration and stomp dance ceremony in the forest last November. Local residents gathered in the forest in response to the apparent bulldozing. The construction continues in the face of ongoing dissent against the city’s plans to build a massive $90 police militarization facility known as “Cop City.”
On Sept. 8, the Atlanta City Council gathered after listening to nearly 17 hours of comments from over 1,100 constituents across the city. The flood of messages concerned one thing: a proposed $90 million police militarization training facility known among locals as “Cop City.” The renderings of the facility include a mock city for officers to train in, as well as a helicopter landing base, new shooting ranges, burn tower sites, and more. Its development is being spearheaded by the Atlanta Police Foundation and two-thirds of the funding comes from “philanthropic” and corporate donors, kicking the remainder of the bill to the public. The project’s supporters, who include Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, have described the facility as a vital tool for improving police morale and fighting crime.
This July, unhoused leaders set up tents in front of Atlanta City Hall to demand a meeting with city officials. They were met by nearly 60 armed police officers who gave them 15 minutes to disperse. Only moments later, 10 of the activists — members of the newly-formed Atlanta Homeless Union — were arrested. The group had four demands: permanent housing, health care, access to water and sanitation, and a “seat at the table” to negotiate with city officials regarding housing policy. “Nobody else that’s not walking in our shoes gonna tell us what to do,” the unhoused leaders announced in their first press release. “Teach us how to fish, and we’ll eat forever. The homeless have unionized, and we’re here for what we deserve.” The Atlanta Homeless Union came into being at a critical moment for the nearly 600,000 people experiencing homelessness across the nation — a number that is likely much higher since data on homelessness hasn’t been gathered since before the pandemic.
City Council meetings were dominated by residents’ and civil rights activists’ calls for police accountability. A year later, these activists say their relationships with City Council remain strained. Those hoping to redistribute police investment said they’re unsatisfied with the government’s response. Some City Council members say they understand the calls for change, but that change takes time.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges discusses with journalist and writer May Jeong the deep American roots of the Atlanta shootings. May Jeong’s op-ed, ‘The Deep American Roots of the Atlanta Shootings - The Victims Lived at the Nexus of Race, Gender and Class’, was published in the New York Times on March 19, 2021. Jeong is a writer at Vanity Fair and an Alicia Patterson fellow. She is working on a book about sex work.
Gunman Rob Aaron Long opened fire in three Asian-owned spas in the Atlanta, Georgia area on March 16, 2021, killing Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Delaina Ashley Yuan, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng and Paul Andre Michels.* Six of the eight victims were Asian women. At local and national levels, the initial media response focused primarily on the gunman’s story and police statements. Reports linked the targeted businesses to sex work with insubstantial documentation, but struggled to identify if and how race and gender motivated the gunman.