“Cop City” is the colloquial name for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a proposed police training center to be built in the Weelaunee Forest just outside the Atlanta city limits. Designed to train police officers in quelling urban revolt, if built, the facility would contain a mock city for police training exercises. Police departments from around the world are expected to use Cop City. A movement to stop this facility’s construction has grown, with solidarity actions taking place throughout Baltimore, the U.S., and the world. At Baltimore Courtwatch, we fully support #StopCopCity and see the threat the facility poses to all of us — including here in Baltimore.

This story also appeared in Baltimore Courtwatch

The impetus for building the compound is clearly linked to mass uprisings against police murders. Prior to the initial proposal of Cop City in 2017, uprisings throughout the country, including Baltimore, marked a growing mass movement against police brutality. These laid the groundwork for the unprecedented, nationwide uprising in the summer of 2020 following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Police across the country violently rioted against protestors, arresting thousands.

Since 2020, no serious measures have been put in place to address police violence by reducing their power. Instead, politicians have dedicated billions of dollars more for “training” and the further militarization of local police departments — often led by Democrats such as President Joe Biden and Mayor Brandon Scott. This spending has occurred as fascist attacks on transgender people, abortion access, Black people, immigrants, disabled people, and the push to install Christian theocracy have increased. 

Since 2020, no serious measures have been put in place to address police violence by reducing their power.

Targeting scapegoats, such as Black and transgender people, is at the forefront of every fascist movement. However, none of this occurs without a fight. Activists are organizing and mobilizing on every front, with legal challenges, massive protests in the streets, and efforts to gain legislative victories like the Trans Health Equity Act in Maryland. 

In this context, training for urban combat against protesters is a declaration of war against dissent. Cop City has become the centerpiece of the state’s effort to violently enforce submission of the domestic population.

The Atlanta Police Department has escalated that war on dissent as the movement to Stop Cop City has grown to threaten its construction. Repression tactics have included the assassination of forest defender Tortuguita, the arrest of protesters simply leafleting information, mass arrest of attendees of a music festival in the Weelaunee Forest, charging people with terrorism, and the arrest of three organizers of the Atlanta Bail Fund

These fascist tactics should sound the alarm. The most recent, criminalizing bail funds, is a short step from criminalizing legal defense funds, immigrant support funds, abortion funds, mutual aid funds — any fundraising efforts that the state deems against their interest are at risk. Not only has the state intentionally abandoned its people and violated the land, but it is punishing anyone who attempts to care for those the state has harmed for defending the land from capitalist exploitation and further violence and deforestation.

As repression of dissent against Cop City has escalated, in Baltimore we have seen our own troubling, reactionary thrust towards further empowering police. Media sensationalization of crime — even as police admit crime is down — has been exploited by Baltimore’s political leadership. 

On May 26, Mayor Brandon Scott began to enforce a summer curfew targeting the scapegoat for citywide violence — Black teenagers. This will involve volunteers stationed in the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill, and Fells Point to confront and discourage youth gathering. That the youth are primarily being discouraged from gathering in the “white L” is surely a coincidence.

Also in May, Baltimore Police Officer Cedric Elleby chased and shot a teen in the back. Police said the teen was “displaying the characteristics of an armed person,” a phrase our observers hear daily on the bail review docket. Routinely prosecutors will use “characteristics of an armed person” to explain a cops’ reasoning for stopping, arresting, or shooting someone. It is also notable that this officer was a District Action Team member. Recent reporting in Baltimore Magazine has revealed the connection between DATs and the infamous, scandal-ridden Gun Trace Task Force. Within weeks, the State’s Attorney’s Office, under Ivan Bates, cleared the officer in this shooting and charged the teen as an adult, 

Then on June 1, the State’s Attorney’s Office announced the implementation of a “broken windows”-style policing strategy with their Uniform Criminal Citation docket. Police will focus on citing people for offenses such as anything related to dirt biking, loitering, hacking, panhandling, and failing to obey orders. While Bates said the focus is on issuing citations, anyone familiar with policing in Baltimore (or anywhere in the US for that matter) knows traffic stops, street stops, and other interactions for minor reasons often escalate in horrific ways. 

These steps show Scott and Bates have fully embraced “tough on crime” mass incarceration policies. While these are known to harm Black people most, marginalized people throughout Baltimore will be harmed. This attack must be met with pushback. Here we can look to the power and determination of the Stop Cop City movement for inspiration.

In the early morning of June 6, following roughly 14 hours of community testimony overwhelmingly in opposition to Cop City, the Atlanta City Council passed $67 million to fund construction. Still, Stop Cop City organizers repeat their mission: Cop City will never be built. The fight goes on as organizers plan a week of action for June 24-July 1 and on June 7 announced plans to bring Cop City to a referendum.  

We can echo this call in Baltimore: we will love and protect our neighbors and community. We must resist repression and fascism from the State’s Attorney’s Office and BPD. We will not leave anyone behind.

Baltimore Courtwatch is made up of Baltimore citizens who watch court proceedings and report what they see in order to hold court actors accountable and end the injustice of the criminal legal system. Learn more about them at https://baltimorecourtwatch.org/