Jan 5, 2023 - News

Gov. Brian Kemp takes on Atlanta's "Cop City"

Photo of banners with banners opposing a proposed public safety center hanging between trees

Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

Gov. Brian Kemp is ramping up rhetoric and threats of serious criminal charges against activists affiliated with the movement to block Atlanta's proposed public safety training facility that protesters have dubbed “Cop City.”

What's happening: On Tuesday, an anonymous person claimed they set fire to a Portland, Oregon bank in support of the Cop City protesters arrested in Atlanta's city-owned old-growth forest last month on domestic terrorism charges.

  • Kemp took to Twitter to warn people who might commit similar acts that the state would “bring the full force of state and local law enforcement down on those trying to bring about a radical agenda through violent means.”

Catch up quick: In late 2021, activists started staging tree sits and building makeshift communities in the South River Forest, referred to by protesters as the Weelaunee Forest, to protest the planned 85-acre complex.

  • Clashes over the months between protesters and police escalated in December when local, state and federal law enforcement raided the camps.

State of play: The governor's statement comes as activists in other cities show solidarity with the Atlanta protest movement across the country and even overseas.

  • A group of roughly 50 demonstrators protested outside the Charlotte offices of Brasfield & Gorrie, a contractor building the complex, in July.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is serving as the lead prosecutor in a task force formed to "eliminate the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center of criminal activity." Carr's office declined to comment on its strategy.

Of note: Civil liberties attorneys told Saporta Report that an Atlanta police official's comments about out-of-state activists and arresting people filming law enforcement activity could open the city to lawsuits.

What they're saying: "Rest assured they will not be the last we will take down as this project moves forward," Kemp said in his statement. "The only response we will give to intimidation and violence is swift and exact justice."

  • Kamau Franklin of Community Movement Builders, a movement supporter, told Axios that Kemp's statement was "a continuation of the reactionary rhetoric meant to criminalize dissent."

Editor's note: Cox Enterprises President and CEO Alex Taylor, a former chair of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, led a campaign to raise private funds for the proposed facility. Cox owns Axios.


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