This is not the usual environmental or neighborhood association story opposing the police training center on 85 acres of Prison Farm property. There are probably over 40 different groups opposing the police training center and many have different perspectives on why they oppose it. This view is from the community most impacted by the militarization of the police – those with blood in the game.
Community Movement Builders is a Black Liberation organization dedicated to the physical lives of the people, building sustainable, self-determining communities through cooperative economic platforms and collective community organizing.
They organized a march from Five Points on Peachtree Street to the World of Coca Cola Museum on Baker Street. Over one hundred black and white young men and women marched to put pressure on Coca Cola who is a major funder of the police training center.
But before the march started they spoke on why they need to “stop cop city” and how it will be a continuation of the racial capitalism and police brutality that they have seen in the city and are working to fight against.
Salome with the Atlanta Chapter of Black Alliance for Peace talked about the 1033 program which is the Department of Defense program that transfers military equipment to civilian and law enforcement agencies.
THE 1033 PROGRAM
Since 1990, law enforcement agencies have been acquiring military gear from the federal government through the 1033 Program. Over $7.4 billion dollars of military property has been transferred to law enforcement agencies since its inception. Military gear ranges from machine guns to M-16 assault rifles to bomb disposal robots to eight-wheeled, nineteen-ton armored infantry carriers with remote-controlled weapon assemblies.
See what is in your county: https://project1033.org/visualizer/
American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized, in large part through federal programs that have armed state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war, with almost no public discussion or oversight, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report The War Comes Home.
Use the link to download the full 96-page report.
The militarization of the American police, and the 1033 program began attracting attention after the police killing of Michale Brown and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
In 2020, police killed more than 1,100 people. Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by a police officer than white Americans. Black people are 1.3 times more likely than whites to be unarmed in such incidents. Police killing is a leading cause of death for Black men in the United States – one in every 1,000 Black men will die at the hands of police, according to the Brennan Center for Justice report on Protecting Against Police Brutality and Official Misconduct. You can download the report here
THE GILEE PROGRAM
Salome talks about the GILEE (Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange) program which is a massive exchange between the U.S. and Israel police and military with hyper militarized policing techniques and technology that is shared with US law enforcement departments.
Below is an excerpt from a 2019 letter to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from 36 organizations representing scholars, faith leaders, civil rights groups, and human rights activists. The letter asks Mayor Bottoms to end the City of Atlanta’s participation in the GILEE program.
“Since GILEE’s inception in 1992, at least 1,600 participants have engaged in its training programs, including officers from the Atlanta Police Department (APD). When APD officers travel to the Middle East for training, they study at least 28 different topics. Although GILEE has long refused to share details about what officers learn through the program, open records requests have forced GILEE to reveal that the 28 topics include border policing, community policing, and urban policing. All of this is troubling for several reasons. First, GILEE partners with foreign governments which use their law enforcement agencies to restrict civil liberties, commit human rights violations, and/or promote bigotry, including sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and Islamophobia.,” the letter states
Some of the countries where US law enforcement officers train in are Egypt, Kazakhstan, China, Colombia, Hungary, and Israel where the program originated.
“By allowing Atlanta police officers to train and dialogue with foreign governments that violate human rights, we are running a serious risk that our officers will learn dangerous policing methods, bring those methods back home, and apply them to the residents of Atlanta. Religious profiling, mass surveillance, violence against minorities, militarized police tactics, and excessive force have no place in the City of Atlanta. Our officers must learn to serve and protect, not control and abuse,” the letter states.
Mayor Bottoms not only did not end GILEE but worked with the Atlanta Police Foundation to give away forest land at the Prison Farm to the APD for one of the largest police training centers in the county at a cost of $90 million dollars.
“Police are used to enforcing the status quo of white power and colonial control over the lives of black, brown, and other oppressed groups of people. We can’t trust the elites to abolish or defund the police – policing and incarceration are big business and managed by Democrats and Republicans. Communities that want to dismantle police departments will need the power to do that work themselves. This is how we can fight efforts like cop city and defeat the war on African Black people in the US and around the world,” Salome said.
For more information on GILEE read this link from the Streets of Atlanta
SAY THEIR NAME
Almost every city in the United States has a Say Their Name Memorials for all the Black people killed by police violence. For years, the streets of America have heard activists shout “Whose Side Are You On,” and “Stop Killing Us.”
“The struggle to stop Cop City is a life or death issue. That means that if cops city is successfully constructed, it will cost people their lives,” Marty White a member of Community Movement Builders said.
White talked about unarmed Black men who have been killed by police in Atlanta like animals and how this shows the true nature of the Atlanta police department.
This is a partial list of Black men and women killed in the Atlanta area by police.
Kathryn Johnson, Anthony Hill, Alexia Christian, Nicholas Thomas, Kevin Davis, Jamarion Robinson, Deandre Phillips, Shali Tilson, Jimmy Atchison, Oscar Cain, Jr, and Yassin Muhamed.
Black people killed by police in the Atlanta area since George Floyd’s death.
Rayshard Brooks, Dearia Bell, DeMarco Riley, Terrell Smith, Johnny Bolton, Jaquan Haynes, Willie Roy Allen, Mathew Zadock Williams, and Tyrone Penny.
Two names that made national news in Georgia are Kendrick Johnson from Valdosta and Ahmaud Arbery from Brunswick.
A website with more information
POLICE ARE AT WAR WITH THE BLACK COMMUNITY
America did not get to where it is today, regarding police relations with the Black community, without a lot of history in the rearview mirror. For decades police and white supremacist have been killing Black people and only after the invention of the cell phone camera did this information start to slowly leak out to white America.
Before the uprising in Ferguson when Michale Brown was killed by police there was Trayvon Martin killed by a vigilante in Florida, and after Ferguson, there was 12-year old Tamir Rice killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio. It just never stops.
The video of police officer Derek Chauvin, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for almost ten minutes while he said,” I can’t breathe” went viral. The cold-blooded cruelty of Floyd’s death sparked a national uprising and a demand for racial justice that was heard around the world.
Even though the majority of protesters were peaceful they were still blamed for the cop cars and police precincts that were torched. Militarized police drove cars into crowds, brutality beat protesters with batons, fired rubber bullets and tear gas at them.
A website for those that want to dig deeper into this problem.
After generations of police killings going all the way back to the slave patrols, it’s no wonder Black people are organizing to fight back with protests, marches, civil disobedience, lawsuits, lobbying, and education. So it’s not surprising when African Americans say the police are at war with us.
“They are at war with us. When we work together and refuse to cower in the face of oppression. They are afraid of us and know that in order to oppress us further, they’re gonna have to get better at waging war against our communities of black people, brown people, and poor people. That’s why they are building this training facility so that they could get better at waging urban warfare against us. The intention of the dystopian project that we are trying to stop today is to make a way for the Atlanta pig department to get better at killing us. Any police training facility of this type is a threat to all of the people who have been victimized by these murderous police officers. I want to be very clear about this. We are fighting against cop city. We are fighting for our lives. Let’s shut this project down,” White said.
“Atlanta Police Department has been losing their police officers because they’re doing the right thing and not being class traitors. So now Atlanta is facing a police shortage. The police training center is an active recruitment effort to give them a country club resort to shoot guns, blow up stuff, and a mock city to practice tactical assault and urban policing,” Charlie, a marcher told the Streets of Atlanta.
Many activists fear we will live in a police state if the largest police training center in the country is built and the police are given more money and more military training and weapons to kill more unarmed black, brown, and poor people.
written and photos by Gloria Tatum