A new training facility proposal for the Atlanta Police Department has ignited controversy in the city, pitting environmental activists and defund the police protesters against law enforcement and their supporters.
Atlanta city council member Joyce M. Sheperd introduced an ordinance earlier in June to lease land to the Atlanta Police Foundation, a nonprofit that plans to build “a state-of-the-art Public Safety Training Campus for all public safety agencies.”
The training facility would be built on 150 acres of forested land in DeKalb County, which is the site of the old Atlanta prison farm, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
It would include 90 acres of green space, a military veteran training center, a 12-acre emergency vehicle course, a physical training field with a track, a mock city for real-world training, burn towers, a shooting range, 40 horse stalls, a 40-acre horse pasture, k9 kennels, and more, according to mockups by the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Environmental activists and supporters of the defund the police movement have been protesting the new facility for weeks, but Sheperd said they took things too far when they came on her property Wednesday.
“People have a right to come out and say whether they are for or against it. I have no problem with that. I’ve been doing this for years and I know people have that right,” Shepherd said Wednesday, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
“But what they don’t have a right to do is come up on my private property, knock on my door, protest on my lawn and on my porch. They don’t have that right. So I’m saying tonight that I’m still supporting the academy and I’m not scared.”
Dozens of Atlanta residents also called into a City Council finance meeting on Wednesday and made hours of public comments that were mostly in opposition to the new training facility.
“We don’t need more policing in our community. We need more resources, we need more mental health services, not more cops,” one such caller said on Wednesday. “We need to not only protect our people, we need to protect the forest and the environment.”
Activists groups such as Defend the Atlanta Forest and Defund APD, Refund Communities have been organizing marches in protest of the proposed facility.
“The City of Atlanta must demilitarize, disarm and abolish the Atlanta Police Department (APD), not provide it with additional opportunities to practice targeting, assaulting and killing city residents,” Defund APD, Refund Communities circulated in a call sheet on the ordinance.
“After a year of uprisings in response to police violence in which activists, organizers, and everyday residents were brutally teargassed, tased, and shot with rubber bullets by APD officers, it is disgraceful that City Council intends to offer more physical space and resources with which APD can practice brutalizing residents.”
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said Thursday that protesters are “trying to strong arm Atlanta officials into rejecting a training facility for [Atlanta police].”
“Georgians deserve freedom from fear,” Carr tweeted. “That’s why I will continue to support additional training/resources for law enforcement.”
The Atlanta City Council will now hold public hearings on the ordinance for the next two months before a vote takes place, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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