The story is essentially the same as everywhere else. South River Forest: A huge forest and wetland in the heart of South Atlanta. Partly clear-cut for the construction of Blackhall Studios’ installations, they came to realize that the soil wouldn’t hold such a development. The city decided to swap them for another part of the formerly protected forest, in the hopes of implementing a new project on the traded land and the remainder of the forest. The plan? A huge police training facility, a mock city for them to practice in, with the goal of becoming international leaders in the field. It is, at best, a project that will fall into oblivion after being buried in shame and ridicule when they’ll have realized that the ground isn’t appropriate, that they’re lacking funds and personnel, that everyone hates the cops, or any other reason that’ll end up making the project fail after having destroyed way too many acres of the forest. It is, at worst, one of the offspring of the School of the Americas’ tradition1 (also called School of the Assassins, or School of the Dictators), having sordid and immeasurable consequences on an international scale. In disregard of the overwhelming majority of civil society that opposes the project, city hall was very comfortable going forth without waiting for the end of the “public consultations”.
They nailed the caricature: while the world is burning, cutting down 85 acres of the largest forest in Atlanta to build a Cop City, which has a humble starting cost of 90 million dollars, on the 200th anniversary of the theft of Muskogee land, and less than a year after the beginning of the BLM and Defund the Police uprisings.
This decision falls in line with the grotesque continuum of the rejection of the Rayshard Brooks law during the summer of 2020. That summer on the 12th of June, three weeks after the murder of George Floyd, 27 years old Rayshard Brooks was brutally murdered by the APD (Atlanta Police Department) after being woken up from a nap in his car, in a Wendy’s parking lot. The following weeks bore witness to powerful insurrectionary moments. The Wendy’s was burned to the ground. Immediately after the Rayshard Brooks law was tabled, oriented towards rethinking public safety and suspending around $73 million of the APD’s budget. Voting in favor of the resolution, the city council then proceeded to deny the city the means to apply the resolution. In other words, they voted for the law, but against giving the city the power to apply it2. A fun administrative joke.
The following month, while many big cities of the US redirect hundreds of millions of dollars from police funding to community initiatives, Atlanta’s city council went against their previous declarations, and not only decided to keep the entirety of the APD’s budget intact, but added $14 millions to it. While grotesque, the situation is unsurprising considering the bloody history of the city on police and carceral fronts.