Shelby Kearns, Campus Reform
A sprawling training center for police and firefighters is facing opposition from students and faculty over claims that it will bring police brutality and environmental damage to Atlanta.
After the City Council approved the so-called “Cop City” in 2021, criticism of the Public Safety Training Center has continued from activists and a consortium of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Morehouse College students protested the Center during a weekly forum that usually focuses on social justice issues, according to a recent Inside Higher Ed article. The college is an HBCU in the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC), an organization that is “among those fighting the plans.”
Student protests made Morehouse professors feel “inspired to speak out,” and they issued a Feb. 2 letter garnering 53 signatures. Like the anti-police sentiment that erupted after the murder of George Floyd, the letter described violence against racial minorities as a systemic issue in the police force.
“There is an undeniable and direct relationship between the fate of Michael Brown and George Floyd as well as Tyre Nichols and the pending plan to build Cop City,” the letter reads.
“We must study how state violence directed against Black, Indigenous, People of Color [BIPOC]—as well as working-class people of all colors—reproduces itself in different ways over generations.”
A recent press release from the mayor’s office responded to claims of police brutality and the idea that forests will be cleared to build the Center.
“The facility will not be built on a forest,” the press release said. “The training center will sit on land that has long been cleared.”
The press release continued to say that “training includes vital areas like de-escalation techniques, mental health, community-oriented-policing, crisis intervention training as well as Civil Rights history education.”
The Center received buy-in from the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a “public-private partnership” between the mayor and community leaders, according to Inside Higher Ed. President Helene Gayle of Spelman College, an AUCC school, sits on the committee.
At the Morehouse forum, President David Thomas found his opinion at odds with that of students. Some criticized the joint statement he issued after the killing of Tyre Nichols with the student government president and campus chief of police.
“SGA President Nichols met with Mayor Andre Dickens and Chief Darin Schierbaum of the Atlanta Police Department to discuss the pending impact of the new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center and confirmed both leaders’ commitment to improved policing practices and relationships with the Black community,” they wrote.
Since the statement, Thomas made his support clearer by saying that Atlanta needs Cop City.
Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.
Republished with permission from Campus Reform