A controversial public police and firefighter training center was approved by the Atlanta City Council Tuesday morning despite about 15 hours of public comments in which the vast majority opposed the project.
According to The Associated Press, the council members voted 11-4 to authorize $31 million in public funds for the development of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, as well as a stipulation requiring the city to pay $36 million – $1.2 million each year for 30 years – for using the facility.
The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, dubbed “Cop City,” has garnered national attention for the major protests against it. City officials say its police and fire departments urgently require a new training facility and that it will improve policing. However, critics say it will militarize the police and have harmful environmental impacts.
According to the center’s website, it will include an “auditorium for police/fire and public use,” a “mock city for burn building training and urban police training,” an “Emergency Vehicle Operator Course for emergency vehicle driver training,” a K-9 unit kennel and training,
“Instead, make investments that are necessary to create true public safety,” said Gary Spencer, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, according to NPR. “Invest in affordable housing. Invest in affordable healthcare, including mental healthcare. Invest in economic security and healthy environments and a quality education for the children who live here.”
Over months of protests, people have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism. Earlier this year, the demonstrations against the project escalated when a protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, was shot and killed by police in January as officers raided a campground occupied by demonstrators.
Terán had at least 57 gunshot wounds in their body, according to the autopsy by the DeKalb County Medical Examiner ABC News reports, including in the hands, torso, legs, and head. Officials said the protester fired the first shot at a state trooper, and the officer responded with the fatal shot. An autopsy report later showed that Terán did not have gunpowder residue on their hands.
Protests have continued, and dozens of people have been arrested since Terán’s death. Last week, ESSENCE reported that police arrested three Atlanta Solidarity Fund leaders who had bailed out protestors and assisted them in finding attorneys. They were charged with money laundering and charity fraud and have since been released on bond.