Training center security costs $41,500 a day, planner claims
By John Ruch
Security for Atlanta’s public safety training center site is costing the City and the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) $41,500 a day, according to court documents.
The documents also include a long list of vandalism and violence incidents locally and nationally, along with many calls for peaceful protest and some joke memes, compiled by the Atlanta Police Department’s (APD) Homeland Security Unit.
The documents are affidavits filed via APF attorneys to oppose an appeal of the project’s land-disturbance permit. A court hearing was scheduled for Feb. 16 on a request to stop the work pending the appeal.
The training center, planned for the former Atlanta Prison Farm site on Key and Constitution roads in unincorporated D
eKalb County, has become a target of the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” protest movement on environmental and police-reform issues. Last month, police killed Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, known as Tortuguita, at the site after the protester allegedly shot and wounded a state trooper. The protests also involve DeKalb’s neighboring Intrenchment Creek Park, which was swapped to a private developer in a deal that is the subject of a pending lawsuit.
APF project manager Alan Williams wrote in his affidavit that halting the pre-construction work at the site for 60 days would cost the City and the nonprofit $4,139,000 in costs related to security and contractors.
That total included $33,600 a day for 120 APD officers to secure the site and $7,900 a day for “offsite security.”
Another affidavit was filed by APD Maj. Jessica Bruce, commander of the Special Enforcement Section, apparently with the intent to bolster the concerns about security impacts if construction were delayed. Bruce described her offerings as listing “property damage, vandalism, and violence,” though the list also includes many peaceful First Amendment activities and civil disobedience protests.
Bruce provided a sample of social media posts, a few of which referred to an unspecified “attack,” and an excerpt from the online publication Truthout that quoted someone alluding to civil disobedience trespassing on the site. However, the majority were calls for protests with no mention of violence, and some specifying such activities as barbecues, dances, a concert and yoga classes. Included are some joke images, including a satirical APD patch reading “Stop Cop City” – the protesters’ term for the training center – and an illustration depicting the “Star Wars” Death Star hovering over Buckhead’s Lenox Square mall with the phrase, “Why not put Cop City by where the people who want it live?”
Bruce also provided a document called “Defend the Atlanta Forest Key Details & Timeline,” dating from May 2021 to the present, which lists many incidents of vandalism, trespassing, arson, assault and other activities locally and nationally said to be related to the protests. Some were at homes and offices of contractors. The list mentions the killing of Tortuguita, who is referred to as “trespasser.” Also on the list is some civil-disobedience activity, such as protesters chaining themselves to a contractor’s door.
Also on the list are arrests APD made at peaceful protests and which are the subject of legal challenges alleging unconstitutional free-speech violations. That includes a May 14 protest where a journalist was among those detained. Civil rights attorneys have said APD’s pattern of such activity suggests at least some officers are engaged in a counter-protest against Defend the Atlanta Forest.
Bruce’s timeline makes no mention of many peaceful protests, marches and rallies held under the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement banner.
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