Public Speaks to Atlanta City Council Before Public Safety Training Center Funding Vote

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council voted on whether to approve millions of dollars for the development of what has been characterized as “the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.” The vote is less than a week after law enforcement “arrested three organizers of a bail fund for people protesting the facility’s construction.”

As reported, the City Council meeting has drawn hundreds of critics and supporters who plan to rally and speak for and against the proposed training center project nicknamed by “activists” as “Cop City.” The issue for vote is whether the City Council should give $31 million for the development of the training center. The total cost of the training center is expected to be in the range of $90 million.

The reporting indicates that the Atlanta Police Foundation will financially support the remainder of the anticipated cost. Atlanta has a “lease back” provision with the Foundation which requires the city to pay $1.2 million a year for the use of the facility over 30 years. That annual rental, as reported, is “less than the $1.4 million it currently pays annually to lease training space.”

The City Council meeting and vote occurred after the arrest a few days ago of Adele MacLean, 42, Marlon Scott Kautz, 39, and Savannah Patterson, 30 on charges of charities fraud and money laundering. These three people are reported to be leaders of “the Atlanta Solidarity Fund,” which has, allegedly, limited its activities to providing “bail money and helped find attorneys for arrested protesters.”

The arrests of these three people have led to reactions critical of the police and prosecutors voiced by many Georgia officials, including Atlanta City Council member Liliana Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari “questioned the timing of the raid.” She wrote, “The execution of this raid, from its timing – just days before the Atlanta City Council is scheduled for a final vote on the controversial Public Safety Training Center – to the excessive means in which it was conducted, appears to be nothing more than an intimidation tactic by the state.”

Bakhtiari then quoted Judge Altman, “I don’t find it real impressive.” These three people were granted bond by a judge on Friday.

The training center was approved by the Atlanta City Council in September 2021. A summary of the history of the proposed center includes its opposition from local and then “opponents from all over the country.” The alleged justification advanced by the opponents include their ostensible concern that the center “will lead to greater militarization of the police” and “that its construction will exacerbate environmental damage.”

Protesters had been camping at the site since at least last year, and police said they had caused damage and attacked law enforcement officers and others. The reporting references the incident when officers shot and killed 26-year-old protester Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, known as Tortuguita. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said officers fired in self-defense after Terán shot at them while they cleared protesters from the site. But the state troopers involved weren’t wearing body cameras, and activists have questioned the official narrative.

The City has anticipated negative reactions if the funding proposal passes. Preemptively, City Hall will be closed throughout the day. Some of the details of its behavior in anticipation of trouble include minutiae such as “a temporary ban on liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes from anyone other than City officials and employees.” The stated justification for these actions were “safety concerns.”

D & B Staff

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Episode 88