Jun 7, 2023 - News

Activists plan next move to halt training center

Activists who oppose Atlanta's public safety training center consider their next steps to stop the project. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Activists opposing the construction of Atlanta's planned police and fire training center want to continue their fight on a new front: the ballot.

What's happening: This morning, groups including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Community Movement Builders will hold a press conference to call for a referendum to allow city residents to decide whether the facility should be built.

  • Kamau Franklin, the founder of Community Movement Builders, told Axios that organizers have to get the signatures of 15% — or about 75,000 — of registered voters eligible to vote in the most recent city election.
  • If they cross that threshold, the City Council will consider putting the referendum on the November ballot.

What they're saying: Despite Tuesday's vote by the Council to approve funding its share of the project, Franklin told Axios that organizers will push ahead with "continued protests, civil disobedience and direct action" against the training center.

  • "We expect shenanigans from the city and the City Council, considering what they've been attempting to do so far, but we won't be deterred," he said. "We're going to continue to fight this."

Yes, and: Tim Franzen of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, says the groups' inspiration comes from Camden County residents' successful efforts to block a spaceport.

  • If people could hold back an interstellar infrastructure project like that, he told Axios, they could also do so here.
  • "We've seen what pressuring the mayor looks like," he said. "We've seen what pressuring the City Council with overwhelming people-power looks like. What does it look like for us to put this into the people's hands?"

The other side: Mayor Andre Dickens said Tuesday in a written statement that the Council's decision "marks a major milestone for better preparing our fire, police and emergency responders to protect and serve our communities."

  • Dickens said the new training center will allow Atlanta to lead in "anti-bias training, de-escalation techniques and other community-based solutions."
  • He also thanked residents for "exercising your voice and your First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner."
  • "I know there is more work to be done, and I am committed to building trust, and my administration looks forward to continuing the conversation in the weeks ahead," the mayor said.

Of note: Construction crews have already started work on the site where the facility would be built.

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