Breaking News
More () »

Atlanta City Council approves funding for public safety training center

The City Council meeting began at 1 p.m. Monday and continued all night, eventually passing around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in an 11-4 vote.

ATLANTA — UPDATE (5:30 a.m.) After an over 16-hour-long session, Atlanta City Council approved funding for the new public safety training center Tuesday morning.

The session went on all night since 1 p.m. Monday, eventually passing in an 11-4 vote. In total $30 million in funds was approved for construction of the facility, as well as approve a "lease-back" agreement that will see Atlanta make $1.2 million yearly payments for 30 years toward paying off the project.

At the moment funding passed, protesters in the audience could be heard chanting "Cop City will never be built."

More than 1,000 people gathered to speak at City Hall on Monday, after the sign-up period for public comment at the meeting began at 11 a.m.

The facility was closed Monday for regular city services in anticipation of the large response to the City Council meeting.

According to a city release, a temporary rule has been issued to ban liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes from being brought into City Hall by anyone other than city officials and employees. The city notes that medications and infant nourishments are exempt.

The funding measure, Ordinance 23-O-1257, would provides a $30 million payment to support the construction of the training center, as well as approve a "lease-back" agreement that would see Atlanta make $1.2 million yearly payments for 30 years to the Atlanta Police Foundation - roughly doubling the city's contribution to the project, 11Alive's Doug Richards reported this week.

RELATED: Cost of Atlanta Public Safety Training Center has more than doubled for taxpayers

The Atlanta Police Foundation, a private nonprofit that supports the Atlanta Police Department, is primarily driving the project's fundraising and construction efforts. The facility has already cleared regulatory hurdles to begin construction in DeKalb County, as well as some legal challenges.

Opposition against the training center has become a mushrooming cause for left-leaning activists nationally and even around the world. 

What began in late 2021 as loosely organized treehouse encampments in the South River Forest, where the facility is to be built, has rapidly grown as a political movement since the law enforcement shooting death early this year of a protester, Manuel Paez Teran, in the forest during a clearing operation of the encampments.

Officials have said Teran first shot at a Georgia State Patrol trooper as a clearing operation was ongoing, then was killed in return fire. Teran's family and activists have fiercely contested the official narrative. The lack of bodycam videos - which are not worn by state law enforcement officers such as GSP troopers or GBI agents - has left unresolved what exactly happened.

Authorities have arrested several dozen people associated with the protest movement over the last few months and charged them with domestic terrorism - a designation activists have strongly denounced as suppression of political speech and organizing.


RELATED: Judge grants bond to organizers with Atlanta protest fund | 'There's not a lot of meat on the bones'

Three people with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which supports the movement and other social justice causes, were arrested this week for alleged financial crimes. A judge granted them bond Friday, saying he did not find the initial details of the case "very impressive" and that "there's not a lot of meat on the bones."

The protesters have opposed the facility on environmental and historical grounds, saying it would decimate one of the largest preserved forest areas in the city and desecrate historically Native American land of the Muscogee Creek people, who once lived in the woods and called it the Weelaunee Forest before being displaced by white settlers in the early 19th Century.

The project's backers - including the law enforcement community, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond - have argued it would improve training and community ties, framing it as an answer to police reform demands to eliminate contentious policing practices and reduce tensions between the police department and the public. 

Warrants in the Atlanta Solidarity Fund case allege the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement is extremist and violent, citing a designation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as "Domestic Violent Extremists."

The warrants allege the tag is based on "acts... stating their intent was to intimidate employees of the government and private companies into not accepting or completing tasks in and around the site of the Atlanta Police Training Center." 

The acts "have included vandalism at offices and private residences; throwing Molotov cocktails, rocks, and fireworks at uniformed police officers; arson of public buildings, heavy equipment, private buildings and private vehicles; shooting metal ball bearings at contractors; discharging firearms at critical infrastructure; preventing access to private land; and several other violations of law," the warrants state.

The Defend the Forest protest collective called the arrests an "attack" that "should concern all bail funds, all abortion funds, all travel funds for migrants, watchdog groups, all organized material support for people criminalized by the government."

Before You Leave, Check This Out