For Immediate Release
June 7th, 2023
New Georgia Project Applauds Democracy Defenders and Condemns Attempts by the State of Georgia and the City of Atlanta to Criminalize the Right to Protest and Civil Dissent
(Atlanta, GA) – New Georgia Project (NGP) released the below statement after the Atlanta City Council voted to approve funding for the Atlanta Police Training Facility, also known as “Cop City,” following hours of opposing public testimony and just days after the GBI and APD unjustly arrested Atlanta Solidarity Fund activists for their support of dissenting protestors.
“Early yesterday morning, the Atlanta City Council voted 11 – 4 to move forward with funding ‘Cop City,’ despite more than 14 hours of public testimony in opposition to the measure. New Georgia Project believes that the right to public protest, to civil dissent, and to making our voices heard with those elected to represent us are key pillars of our democracy. It is concerning that the Atlanta City Council took their vote mere moments after public testimony ended, giving little deliberation to the hundreds of voices heard that night—nor those heard during the nearly two years of public outcry and protest prior. We applaud Atlanta residents, activists, and organizers for their persistent efforts to voice their concerns with our state’s elected leaders, and we urge anyone holding office in Georgia to always give due consideration to the opinions of their constituents.
‘In a healthy democracy, there should always be room for public debate, for protest, and for residents’ concerns to be taken seriously by their elected officials,’ said NGP CEO, Kendra Cotton. ‘The number of people who showed up ahead of Tuesday morning’s vote on funding for “Cop City” demonstrates just how committed Georgians can be to making our voices heard, whether that’s in the streets, at the ballot box, or in the halls of power. We believe in the democratic process, and a key part of that process is the assurance that we can lift our voices in protest without facing the prospect of state-sanctioned violence and jail time, which is a very real threat in Georgia as evidenced by last week’s GBI and APD arrests of three Atlanta Solidarity Fund members. I commend the folks who showed up at City Hall on Monday knowing full well that many of our elected officials, in particular our governor, are committed to suppressing their voices and criminalizing our right to protest. I’m heartened that these arrests did not discourage Atlantans from speaking out.'
NGP is hopeful that, this fall, Atlantans will have another shot at having their say. As such, we support organizers’ recently launched efforts to put a ‘Cop City’ referendum on the ballot this November and welcome a chance to include more Atlantans in the democratic process.
‘Putting a vote on Cop City directly to Atlanta residents is one of the best paths forward on this issue,’ said NGP Policy Director, Stephanie Jackson Ali. ‘NGP is already out here making sure folks are ready to turn out in November, and a ballot referendum will give Atlantans one more important reason to engage in the civic process by making their voice heard via the ballot. We will always take any opportunity we have to motivate folks to vote, especially on the issues that will directly impact their lives.’
Our democracy does not work unless it works for everyone. As Georgians continue to lift their voices on this issue—and any other issue in our state—the First Amendment right to free speech and protest must be protected. Settling for less would be a threat to our already-fragile democracy.