Activists on Wednesday launched a campaign that would let Atlanta voters decide in a referendum if the city’s planned $90 million public safety training center should be built, the latest effort to stop what opponents call “Cop City.”
The announcement came a day after the Atlanta City Council voted 11-4 to approve $67 million in public money for the facility, despite hundreds of people pleading with members over 15 hours to vote against funding the project.
Organizers would need to gather more than 70,000 voter signatures over 60 days once the city clerk approves the petition filed Wednesday for the referendum. The referendum would ask voters to decide if they want to repeal the ordinance approved by the council in 2021 authorizing a lease agreement with the Atlanta Police Foundation to build the public safety training center.
“People need to have a voice on whether or not there is a Cop City,” said Kamau Franklin, founder of Community Movement Builders, at a Wednesday press conference for the “Vote to Stop Cop City” campaign.
“The City Council has failed over and over again to listen to the masses of people in Atlanta,” he said. “We will do all that is possible to make sure that the people of Atlanta come out and vote to shut down Cop City.”
Opponents said a referendum requires the signatures of 15% of the city’s registered voters in the last election. Atlanta had close to 470,000 registered voters in the 2022 general election. About 97,000 people voted in the first round of the city’s 2021 mayoral race, according to the Associated Press.
Gary Spencer, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the coalition’s goal was to get 75,000 signatures to ensure there were more than enough to meet the requirements.
“We want the will of the people to be heard,” Spencer said. “We are not going to be intimidated by intransigent public officials … we are going to take our fight to the ballot box and we believe we will win.”