ATLANTA — Editor's Note: The video above is previous coverage of the training facility.
A group of over 40 experts has joined a task force to provide input on the planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, according to a release from the city on Friday.
According to the city, a task force is being established by Mayor Andre Dickens to gather feedback and guidance on the facility and the green space that will surround the area.
The facility has faced a more than yearlong protest movement, with opponents referring to it as "Cop City."
The list of members includes several known leaders in the Atlanta community, such as Attorney Gerald Griggs, the president of Georgia NAACP, Dr. Bryant Marks, who is a minister, researcher, trainer and award-winning educator at Morehouse Coll
ege and Dr. Rashad Richey from the Rashad Richey Morning Show on WAOK.
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“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our vital public safety needs and establish the largest park the City of Atlanta would own,” Mayor Dickens said.
Sit-in protesters were living in the South River Forest, on part of which the center would be built, for months when one was shot and killed during a clearing operation in December.
The death of that protester, who was known as Tortuguita and whose given name was Manuel Paez Teran, mushroomed the protest movement. Authorities have alleged Paez Teran shot a Georgia trooper and was killed in return fire, with the protest movement fiercely disputing the official narrative.
The new task force comes about following the last few months of a contentious political push-and-pull over the city between the opposition movement and city leaders - including Dickens, who backed the project as a city councilman when the City Council approved it in 2021.
The city said in their release they have welcomed community involvement in the plans through their previous Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee. That group was instrumental, the release said, in adding "adding a 100-foot tree buffer along the residential side of the facility, adding spaces available for community use, building sidewalks, and implementing extensive measures to mitigate sound from training activities at the site."
Atlanta's hope for the new task force is to add more voices to "broaden the scope of community input," including the green space and the site of the former Atlanta Prison Farm. The task force would also review the public safety training curriculum.
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“I want the community at the head of the table, sharing their expertise and aspirations," Mayor Dickens said. "I look forward to receiving recommendations which will continue to inform the training center and the parks, trails and community spaces our communities can be proud of.”
The task force is s comprised of four subgroups and will begin meeting in April and provide an initial set of recommendations by July:
- Parks and green space
- Visioning, memorializing, and repurposing the former Atlanta Prison Farm site
- Sustainability and resilience
- Police, fire and E-911 training curriculum
Here is the list of the initial members:
- Attorney Gerald Griggs, Georgia NAACP
- Bishop Kevin Strickland, Clergy
- Blake Fortune, Community Member
- Bonita Johnson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Christopher Bruce, ACLU of Georgia
- Cicely Garrett, Community Member
- David Paull, CompostNow
- Donna Stephens, Chattahoochee Brick Company
- Douglas Blackmon, Author, Slavery by Another Name
- Dr. Bryant Marks, AUC Staff, Morehouse College
- Dr. Gerald Durley, Retired Pastor and Community Activist
- Dr. LaToria Whitehead, LS White Group, LLC and Spelman College
- Dr. Rashad Richey, Radio Personality
- Dr. Volkan Topalli, Georgia State University
- Dr. Yomi Noibi, Eco Action
- George Dusenbury, Trust for Public Land
- Greta G. deMayo, PATH Foundation Creator
- Janese Coleman, Community Member
- Jay Bassett, Retired EPA and Master Connector
- Jill Savitt, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Leo Smith, Interfaith Public Policy
- Lewis Woodson, Community Leader and Park Advocate
- Linda Adams, Community Member
- Lisa Tuttle, Arts Exchange
- Lynnette Reid, BeltLine, Inc.
- Marc Bolden, Community Member
- Michael Halicki, Park Pride
- Michelle Blackmon, Grant Park Conservancy
- Monica Thornton, The Nature Conservancy
- Nina Cutler, Community Member
- Rabbi Peter Berg, Clergy
- Retired GSP John Prevost, Community Member
- Rev. Gary Burke, Clergy
- Robbie Hunter, Graymont Drive Neighborhood Association
- Sabir Khan, Artist
- Samyukth Shenbaga, Atlanta Regional Commission
- Samuel Bacote, Community Member
- Sheffield Hale, Atlanta History Center
- Stacy Funderburke, The Conservation Club
- Susan Evans, Atlanta Housing
- Tsedey Betru, BeTru Consulting
- Morieka Johnson, Community Member