ATLANTA — The Atlanta City Council has approved building a controversial public safety training center after hearing more than 14 hours of emotional testimony from opponents of “Cop City” laced with profanity but also with mood-lightening bursts of song.
The 11-4 vote supporting $31 million in initial funding for the project came shortly before dawn Tuesday, capping a meeting that had begun early Monday afternoon. More than 300 residents signed up to speak against the proposal, arguing it would be used to militarize city police to commit further acts of brutality against Atlanta citizens’ civil rights.
Speaker after speaker cited the arrests last week of three organizers who have bailed out protesters and the January shooting death of activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran by police during a “clearing operation” at the wooded area that is the site of the proposed training center. A Georgia State Patrol officer was shot and seriously wounded in the same incident
A private autopsy commissioned by Paez Teran’s family indicated he was shot dozens of times.
“I am already tired of living in a police occupation,” Amy Taylor, who lives near the proposed site of the training center, told council members. “I have been harassed, intimidated, interrogated, and followed.”
Councilman Michael Julian Bond, who was interrupted repeatedly by members of the audience, defended the purchase as necessary.
“We’re fiduciaries of the city,” Bond said. “At some point, we have to build facilities. … If we don’t provide the employees with the equipment, the facilities, the salaries and benefits they deserve, we run afoul of federal labor law.”
Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King also endorsed the project.
“I served with honor and distinction in this great city as an Atlanta police officer, was actually shot in the line of duty protecting our community,” King said in a video released Monday. “And I’m urging the mayor and city council to support your police department by approving the training facility.”
Besides the initial $31 million in construction funding, the council also approved a lease-back agreement to pay $36 million over 30 years for the facility. The rest of the $90 million needed to complete the project will come from donations to the nonprofit Atlanta Police Foundation.
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