Jul 19, 2023 - News

"Stop Cop City" petition drive backed by big bucks

Illustration of a cityscape with buildings that have police badge-shaped windows.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The activist campaign to put Atlanta's proposed public safety training center up for a November referendum has a new multimillionaire backer.

Driving the news: James "Fergie" Chambers, a self-described Communist and member of the Cox family who's using his personal wealth to bankroll pet causes, posted on social media that he's making his "first major strategic 'give'" of $600,000 to opponents of the project.

Context: Chambers is the grandson of Anne Cox Chambers, the late matriarch of the family that owns multiple companies, including Axios and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Cox Enterprises is the largest private company in the city, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

  • Fergie Chambers has said he's the first Cox family member since the 1890s to break away from its web of private trusts, which he did because of his personal opposition to the training center project that his family has supported, the Saporta Report writes.

Chambers told the Saporta Report he has "multiple hundreds of millions" at his disposal and plans to build "revolutionary organizations. ā€¦ Iā€™m developing really a team to help craft a long-term plan for this."

Catch up quick: Organizers of the "Stop Cop City" movement have until Aug. 14 to gather 70,000 signatures of Atlanta residents who were registered to vote in 2021 ā€” plus thousands more in case some names are rejected during the vetting process.

The intrigue: In a response on Monday to a federal court lawsuit filed by four DeKalb opponents to the project, the city's private legal team called the signature-collection drive and referendum "futile" and "invalid."

  • Activists say a "yes" vote on the referendum would revoke the ordinance approving the city's ground lease of the property to the Atlanta Police Foundation, the private nonprofit leading the project, the AJC reports.
  • But the city's attorneys argue that the Georgia Supreme Court does not authorize referendums to repeal city ordinances.
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