Despite 'Cop City' protests, Atlanta moves forward with plan


ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta-area officials reiterated Tuesday that they are moving forward with plans to construct a huge police and firefighter training center.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens held a news conference to announce that the city had signed a memorandum of understanding with DeKalb County to build the $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. He also said officials have pledged to enact certain environmental protections after consulting with a “community advisory committee.”

Dickens emphasized that the facilities will be built on a site that was cleared decades ago for a former state prison farm. He said the tract is filled with rubble and overgrown with invasive species, not hardwood trees. The mayor also said that while the facility will be built on an 85-acre site, about 300 other acres would be preserved as a public green space.

"This is Atlanta, and we know forests. This facility would not be built over a forest,” Dickens said.

The news conference came nearly two weeks after an activist was killed by authorities after officials said the 26-year-old shot a state trooper. 

The fatal shooting of Tortuguita, whose given name was Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, prompted a large Jan. 21 demonstration in downtown Atlanta that erupted into violence as a masked contingent lit a police cruiser on fire, threw rocks and launched fireworks at a skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation, shattering windows. No injuries were reported, but six people were arrested that night and charged with domestic terrorism.

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum and Fire Chief Roderick Smith argued in favor of the project Tuesday, saying it would replace substandard offerings and boost morale, especially as the police department has struggled with hiring and retention.

In addition to classrooms and administration buildings, the training center would include a shooting range, a driving course to practice chases and a “burn building” for firefighters to work on putting out fires. A “mock village” featuring a fake home, convenience store and nightclub would also be built for authorities to rehearse raids.

Officials on Tuesday did not say when they expect construction to begin, but Schierbaum said he does not believe there are currently any activists still camping out at the site.


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