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DG #51 preview: The battle of ‘Cop City’

A police car drives past the planned site for 'Cop City'. Photo: Cheney Orr/AFP via Getty Images

The 51st issue of Delayed Gratification features an article by our co-editor Rob Orchard about ‘Cop City’, a proposed new police training centre in Atlanta, Georgia. ‘Cop City’ has attracted passionate proponents and critics, and ignited numerous protests. Eva Cahill talks to Rob about the growing fight over the controversial plans.

Eva Cahill: What’s the story about and what drew you to it?
Rob Orchard: It’s about the construction of a huge new police training facility in Atlanta, Georgia, known as ‘Cop City’, which is being paid for partly through public funding and partly through corporate funding, and which has become a lightning rod for all sorts of areas of protest. I was drawn to it because it’s a story that has absolutely everything. It’s about US politics, Black Lives Matter, Indigenous rights, the call to “defund the police”, gentrification, the environment, drug legislation and even a local secession movement. It’s a starting point for talking about all sorts of different things happening now in the United States. It’s also a really serious and important story – one protester was recently shot dead by police, and several other protesters potentially face going to prison for a long time on domestic terrorism charges.

EC: Both the activists and the police chief you interviewed suggested that the other side were culpable of spreading disinformation about Cop City. Is disinformation playing a significant role in the debate over the planned facility?
RO: There’s disinformation all around this story, but I think that’s the case with every controversial topic now because that’s kind of how the game is played these days. The police would likely claim that the controversy started due to false information about what they actually wanted to have in place at Cop City. The protesters would say, no, that’s what you guys said was going to be there. These radically different interpretations of what’s being planned at Cop City make it hard to find the truth – and both sides make very convincing arguments. I don’t think this is a story where there are definitive goodies and baddies.

EC: The protests so far only seem to have brought about bigger law enforcement crackdowns. Do the protesters have any chance of stopping Cop City?
RO: I think Cop City is very likely to go ahead because both the city and state governments are determined for it to happen. There are still some things that could stop it, such as a referendum that might go ahead. However, quite a lot of the protesters that I spoke to also seem fairly fatalistic in their feeling that it will ultimately go ahead.

EC: Do you think that Cop City speaks to the wider dynamics of policing in America? 
RO: Yes, definitely. America has a very vexed relationship between law enforcement and the citizens. Police officers all carry guns, so that sets a tone. They are more militaristic than in the UK. Then clearly there have been some massive issues with racism in American police forces. There was the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and perhaps more relevant to this story, there was Rayshard Brooks, an unarmed black man who was shot dead by police in Atlanta in June 2020. I think the reaction to Cop City in Atlanta is pretty indicative of the kind of distrust of the police you’ll find throughout the country. That said, one should bear in mind that the protesters are the most visible part of Atlanta’s society when it comes to this story. I’m sure that lots of Atlantans consider the construction of a new police training facility as a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
You can read the full feature by Rob Orchard in issue 51 of Delayed Gratification, available from our online shop here.

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