Last Thursday, a federal judge upheld the First Amendment rights of residents living outside of Atlanta to collect signatures to force a vote on whether or not to build an infamous training center that has become known as “Cop City.” Now, Atlanta is appealing the decision saying it rewrites “state statute and city ordinance.”
The judge’s ruling eliminated the Atlanta residency requirement to collect signatures, ordered the city to issue new petition forms, and extended the August 14 deadline to collect the necessary 70,000 signatures from Atlanta residents. City attorneys take issue with the Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment and argue the proposed remedy “invites significant confusion, delay, and expense.”
Atlanta’s appeal is the latest in a string of tactics pursued by officials pushing back on protesters hoping to put the building of the training center up for a vote among city residents.
Protesters against the complex have been arrested for distributing flyers, criticizing police, and managing community bail funds. Nearly 50 activists connected with the movement have been charged under domestic terrorism laws, including a legal observer associated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, prompting an outcry from civil rights groups around the country. A forest defender, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, was killed by police. (The Georgia Bureau of Investigation say police killed Tortuguita in self-defense; their family points to an autopsy which says Tortuguita’s hands were raised when they were killed.)
After the Atlanta City Council greenlit the police training complex—despite more than 13 consecutive hours of public comment against the project and years of fierce opposition—protesters began a referendum campaign. The city initially rejected activists’ petition to get the measure on the ballot twice, citing technicalities that resulted in a lawsuit. State officials have also called the Cop City vote “invalid.”
In response to public pressure, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has doubled down on the importance of the police training center. He called Atlanta a “group project” where citizens “all support the project or suffer the consequences.”
Atlanta is a group project where government, nonprofits, businesses, schools, faith-based organizations, and citizens all support the project or suffer the consequences.
— Andre Dickens (@andreforatlanta) July 27, 2023
Despite the city’s efforts, Cop City Vote coalition spokesperson Michael Mikail says the referendum campaign will continue.
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