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Group against Atlanta public safety training center accuses city of suppression after petition woes

The "Stop Cop City" group held a news conference on Thursday.

ATLANTA — Protesters against Atlanta's public safety training center aren't backing down after the city blocked the count of thousands of signatures on a petition to put the construction of the center to a vote.

The group with the "Cop City Vote" coalition held a news conference on Thursday morning where protesters stood on the steps of City Hall with signs encouraging the vote. 

On Monday, city officials argued that because the matter is in court, the counting process must wait. The people who oppose what they call "Cop City" said the city pulled a fast one on them by allowing them to submit petitions – but saying they would sit in boxes in City Hall unopened. If the city did not decide to halt the process, a new vote would have decided to put the question of the center's fate on a November city ballot. 

The group has collected over 116,000 signatures for a referendum. In wake of their decision, city officials argued that the group turned the petition in weeks after the deadline.

Protesters expressed frustrations at Thursday's news conference and accused city officials of using voter suppression tactics. 

"Which side are you on? Are you on the side that wants to let people vote, or are you on the side of people that wants to see us sequestered and silenced and suppressed and embarrassed. So I ask you, let us vote," said Bentley Hudgins, a queer organizer.

With signature verification delayed indefinitely, backers of the petition drive said it’s increasingly unlikely they can get the issue before Atlanta voters in November. 

Organizers said they believe the city still has the legal power to allow the verification process despite halting the process due to the ongoing litigation.

"This has been a full frontal assault on making sure that people in Atlanta can have a decision and how city resources are being spent," said Kamau Franklin, the director at Community Movement Builders.

Members said on Thursday that they are unclear of what the verification process looks like and is demanding transparency from city leaders.

Both protesters and the city are looking to the court to understand their next step in the process.

Thursday afternoon, the chiefs of the Atlanta Police and fire departments talked about the need for the future public safety training center. Hear what they had to say here.

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