MLK’s Vision Lives On in Atlanta’s Fight Against New Police Training Facility

“Armies of officers are clothed in uniform, invested with authority, armed with the devices of violence & loss of life & conditioned to imagine that they’ll intimidate, maim or kill Negroes with the identical recklessness that when motivated the slaveowner.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Protest by non-locals [organizers against Cop City] are inherently terrorism.” — Second-in-command Atlanta Police Division Assistant Chief Carven Tyus

Right here in Atlanta, we simply marked the fortieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal vacation. The day has been was a day of “service.” A day to scrub away graffiti and sweep sidewalks — and for a lot of, sweep away the radicalism of Dr. King, who, on the time of his assassination, stood against U.S. imperialism, recognized as a socialist, and rethought American racism as not simply one thing that could possibly be cured by “love” however as an concept woven into the material of the nation that solely a social revolution may fight.

King acknowledged that what held this technique collectively domestically was a police power whose important job was sustaining the racist social order by way of the brutality of a Jim Crow policing system, but additionally northern police departments and courts, who he known as the “enforcers” of a “system of inner colonialism.”

These of us in Atlanta who bear in mind King’s radical legacy spent the MLK weekend collaborating within the motion to Stop Cop City.

The Origins of “Cop Metropolis”

The Atlanta Police Basis, the Atlanta Police Division and the Metropolis of Atlanta plan to destroy almost 100 acres of forest to erect a home model of a navy base within the coronary heart of a working-class Black group. The plans for this “Cop Metropolis” embody military-grade coaching services, a mock metropolis to apply city warfare, explosives testing areas, dozens of capturing ranges and a Black Hawk helicopter touchdown pad. This police coaching facility for the Atlanta police is a prototype of militarized police facilities within the nation. If constructed, “Cop Metropolis” would be the largest police coaching facility of its type, in a metropolis that’s ranked within the backside 20 of largest police departments within the nation.

The concept of “Cop Metropolis” got here after the uprisings in 2020 when the police-perpetrated murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and right here in Atlanta, Rashad Brooks, started a brand new name for defunding and/or abolishing the police. Whereas communities wrestled with the thought of different types of public security, the Black-led metropolis of Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Basis, the Atlanta Police Division, companies and establishments in Atlanta as various as Morehouse, Spellman, Coca-Cola, the Atlanta Hawks, AT&T, and others, put down their Black Lives Matter indicators and began planning a $90 million advanced to show their dedication to police and to develop a tactical website that might cease mass actions. These establishments labored with company media to shift the narrative from police violence to a concentrate on “crime,” the place the police had been once more centered as the answer to all our issues. As soon as the plans to construct Cop Metropolis grew to become recognized to the general public, opposition emerged instantly. Though public opinion surveys have proven that 70 percent of Atlanta is towards it, town and its company pals have continued to maneuver ahead with building.

Since June 2021 when the protest started, demonstrators have been pepper-sprayed, attacked, threatened and violently arrested by the police. Whether or not the techniques had been marches or dismantling bulldozers, demonstrations towards Cop Metropolis have been criminalized. The motion has dubbed the arrestees because the “Forest Defenders,” who on the time of their arrest had been committing acts of civil disobedience by sitting in tree huts to stop the Metropolis of Atlanta from slicing down almost 100 acres of forest adjoining to one of many final intact Black working-class communities left in Atlanta, one which has not been fully gentrified.

This previous weekend, we held public demonstrations demanding the district lawyer drop the fees towards the Forest Defenders and offered teach-ins and skill-building workshops on civil disobedience. Marte White from my group, Community Movement Builders, acknowledged, “It is vital that we join King’s radical legacy to this combat towards a militarized police facility being inbuilt Atlanta: a facility whose solely goal is to cease future uprisings towards police violence.”

Criminalization of Actions Continues

The suitable-wing governor of Georgia and “liberal” Black elected officers in Atlanta have supported the creation of a police “process power” made up of the Atlanta Police Division, the DeKalb County Police Division, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Division of Homeland Safety. The companies have labored collectively to analyze, intimidate and criminalize protesters. Just lately, six protesters had been arrested and charged with acts of home terrorism. These demonstrators had been sitting in tree huts when the police shot rubber bullets and used pepper spray towards them.

This process power is a reminder of the political oppression suffered by organizers and actions from a era previous: when the FBI teamed up with native police to commit felony acts towards actions. The vary of these techniques included making a divisive narrative, criminalizing dissent, false arrests and bogus prices, infiltrating and destroying actions, and acts of homicide (probably the most infamous being the homicide of Fred Hampton, the Chicago Black Panther, by the FBI and native Chicago police).

Dr. King was arrested over 29 occasions, throughout demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience and direct motion, and in addition arrested as a type of intimidation by native police and sheriffs. King and the civil rights motion didn’t simply dissent towards overt Jim Crow legal guidelines, but additionally housing discrimination, wage theft and U.S. navy intervention, whereas pushing for voting rights and labor rights. He and the civil rights employees of the day had been usually referred to as outdoors agitators, terrorists, bother makers and violent criminals after they traveled to totally different states within the South and the North by metropolis officers, police heads, and the overall white inhabitants in each areas.

However identical to King, the civil rights motion, the antiwar motion, the Black Energy motion and the local weather motion, we proceed to maneuver ahead. This marketing campaign to Cease Cop Metropolis has individuals from all the above. It’s a various grouping of organizations, group teams, free confederations and people who proceed to combat towards the constructing of Cop Metropolis, the criminalization of a motion and within the protection of these falsely charged as terrorists for sitting in timber. It’s after these arrests that we now have all continued in a weekend of solidarity to combat again towards Cop Metropolis. We now have had a number of trainings, demonstrations, banner droppings and teach-ins, amongst different organizing efforts. Now, greater than ever, the marketing campaign to Cease Cop Metropolis wants assist to point out that actions of individuals won’t be intimidated by state violence and its company backers. Within the midst of worsening local weather change, killing a forest and displacing a Black working-class group for the sake of a militarized police base should be stopped.