Jan 20, 2023 - News

How Charlotte is tied to Atlanta’s “Cop City” movement

Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

On North Alexander Street in NoDa, white spray paint leaves a command on a construction fence: “Stop Cop City.”

  • The graffiti appeared in recent weeks. Its message is a nod to a much larger deforestation protest in Atlanta, happening on wooded land where a $90 million police facility — paid for through a combination of public dollars and private fundraising — is planned.
  • The Atlanta protest escalated to gunfire this week, leaving a state trooper injured and a protester dead.

Why it matters: The fatal shooting at “Cop City” has left our southern neighbor questioning what’s next for the city and the movement.

  • And in Charlotte — a city around 200 miles north, with its own divisive fights over both police brutality and climate activism — there are questions about how the movement could spread here.

Context: Activists have camped in the Atlanta woods for a year to protest the proposed public safety training center and the tree loss it would cause. They dubbed the land “Cop City.”

  • But local and state officials, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, say the protesters are criminals illegally occupying a construction site. Several protesters were charged with domestic terrorism after a clash in December.
  • On Wednesday, law enforcement officers were attempting to clear people from the site when an individual shot at a trooper, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Officers returned fire, killing the protestor, GBI reported.
  • The trooper underwent surgery and is recovering in the hospital.

Over the summer, demonstrators went to the office of the project’s contracted construction firm, Brasfield & Gorrie, in Charlotte.

  • 50 demonstrators from various social justice and environmental groups, including Sunrise Movement Charlotte, were gathered outside the Morehead Street office in June, QCityMetro reported.
  • In July, protest signs were left at the office and the doors were chained with bike locks, according to The Charlotte Observer. A security guard reportedly told the paper that demonstrators had chained their necks to the property before they were asked to leave.

What we’re watching: Whether the boiling tensions in Atlanta crop up in Charlotte.

What they’re saying: Co-creator of NoDa Save Trees, Jason Newton, says their fight for Charlotte’s urban canopy is comparable to the “Stop Cop City” movement. Both are trying to spread awareness of the need to protect green spaces and trees for the purpose of flood protection and clean air, among other benefits, especially in Black and brown communities.

  • “They’re the ones that suffer most from this type of environmental destruction or cutting down trees in cities, and they’re also the communities that suffer the most from violence from the police,” Newton said. “They’re really related issues.”

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

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