An appeals court sided with the City of Atlanta in an ongoing legal battle with a coalition of activists seeking to put its controversial public safety training center they call “Cop City” on the ballot.

A three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 1 issued a stay on a federal district court’s preliminary injunction that allowed people who lived outside the city limits collect signatures as part of a “Vote to Stop Cop City” referendum petition drive. The lower court’s ruling also extended the time the coalition could collect signatures from Aug. 14 until Sept. 25.

The coalition said in a statement emailed to reporters just after 5 p.m. that the ruling does not invalidate the petition for a referendum on the fate of the planned $90 million training center. The coalition said it remains unclear what the deadline is to turn in the petition signatures.

“We are disappointed that the 11th Circuit has stayed the injunction in this case, particularly given the confusion this ruling creates and lack of clarity provided by the Court,”  said Mary Hooks, tactical lead for the Cop City Vote Coalition, in a written statement.

“To be clear: this does not mean the petition itself has been invalidated or disqualified, only that the Northern District’s injunction has been stayed pending a full decision. To say otherwise is simply a lie,” Hooks said.

“We remain fully committed to putting Cop City on the ballot to let the people’s voices be heard, and are assessing what this means for our ongoing signature collection and canvass efforts,” Hooks said.

“In this heightened time of attacks on democratic processes, this ruling leaves the order up for interpretation and now Atlantans will pay the price in confusion, anger, and disillusionment,” Hooks added.

The coalition in the a statement also accused the city of fighting “the people’s right to democracy, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in this case and in their push to halt any vote on Cop City.”

“Atlanta City Council — simply place Cop City on the ballot and let the people vote,” the coalition said. “We’re ready to accept the outcome of free and fair election. Can the City say the same?”

Shortly after 5 p.m. on Sept. 1, the city emailed reporters a memo from the Office of the Municipal Clerk providing “an update to the public on the process the City of Atlanta will use to verify the petitions advocating for a referendum on repealing the 2021 ordinance authorizing a lease for the land with the Atlanta Police Foundation for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.”

The memo further said no petitions have been submitted to the Municipal Clerk as of Sept. 1.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.