Cop City and SB 11

I’ve been silent the last few days but can be no longer. It’s hard to live in Atlanta right now. She’s a helluva beauty, but the heat of her streets and stone cold nature of some citizens leave me reeling at times. It’s not because people don’t care here, quite the opposite, really. I would venture to say that most of my neighbors have experienced so much trauma even preceding the last few years, most are just thankful to survive and exhausted by their own struggles. In Georgia, rural or urban, rich or poor, sometimes it’s all you can do to keep your head up and put one foot in front of the other. Not EVERYTHING is the city’s fault (I may write more about that later), but there are contributing factors. There is a clear exacerbation of certain ills most folks can no longer look away from here.  And government jurisdictions move from hyper-local up to the state (and beyond) when cities don’t handle their mess. The brokenness of the city, the siloed departments, and the neglect of its leaders in certain areas for decades when we are literally steeped in resources and talent that influences the rest of the world can become all too much. Me, I came from a small place, on a big farm. Generally, folks cared about one another back in Walton County. I’ve found some folks in my neighborhood have similar values, and others like to opine ideas but when it comes to the messiness of life, they choose the softer side, follow the crowd, and don’t question too much.  To me, questioning is the highest form of engagement and political participation. To question is to care. I understand the preference for neat bows and straight rows. Politics is messy and it doesn’t get any dirtier than in the South. 

We all love the tea, but we seem to have forgotten, the only way you get the flavor is by steeping the leaves and dissolving the sugar in high heat. 

I’m no fan of Cop City, or ‘fringe leftist’, but I’m even less of a fan of folks dying, especially at the hands of a Trooper with no body cam footage. That doesn’t sit right with me, and it never will. It is my personal opinion that silence on these issues are what lead to letting Memphis happen (assassination of Atlanta’s own and now the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols).

I cringed when I heard the Mayor in a recording from the Neighborhood Summit meeting take pride in his assertion that no murders had occurred within the city limits in the first 21 days of this year. 

If you’re winning by a technicality, are you really winning??

I’ve written about the ties between the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board, CSAC, the appointments to ACRB, and the appointee that was blocked. I’ve also written about the blocking of an APAB appointment to the Public Safety Commission. All of the above flow back to the same person, who generally remains unchecked and has a documented pattern of removing, blocking, or slow walking things the city doesn’t like to hear from its citizens.

I’m less interested in the oft-used narrative of “outside agitators” that harkens all the way back to when my street was named Hunter. I remember the 17+ hours of public comment, and the city council members who did not return because of this vote. I also wrote a 10-post series on my experience in the Atlanta Citizens’ Police Academy where I remember a fair number of Buckhead residents joined in. I can honestly say I don’t remember any of them pushing for a training center, although I do remember the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods President mentioning having lunch with the Atlanta Police Foundation. I also remember that I stopped attending when the officer who taught the session on the use of force got so agitated by my questions in the session that I did not return. 

Whatever trauma makes that man so easily angered by deeper questions should be addressed by mental health supports that allow him to stay in his job but not out policing people on the street. I may not know anything about mental health, but I damn sure know that power in the hands of folks who are that easily agitated make for a problem waiting to happen.

Here’s what I also know: there are lots of older folks living in areas of our city where the police do not respond as quickly as others. Over time, they have grown more fearful of their neighbors. Some of these folks are Black and range from Dixie Hills to Cascade, some are white, from Buckhead to Blandtown. We have a far more diverse city than just these two demographics, mind you, with a robust population of immigrants who might separate themselves from American Black folks. We have Latinx folks, a significant Indian and Pakastani population, active and involved Korean community members, Philippine immigrants in Dekalb had a great festival some months back that I attended, and the Nigerian population here is woven in almost every aspect of metro Atlanta life. Most of us are fearful of what we don’t know or understand. We’ve been sold this idea that “police training” can only happen if we have a better training center. 

Now I’m all for providing the best for our LEOs- I’m pretty sure part of my series talked about how I think it’s shameful our officers get sent home because they personally purchase better vests and protection than what our city provides. My family members have served in the Navy, Army, Coast Guard, and a couple made a career out of the Air Force. I understand that protection means the difference between a challenge coin vs a body bag coming home. 

My question isn’t about who the protestors are, rather it is more about what the Governor of our state has promised in exchange for Atlanta, Fulton, and Dekalb to do his bidding and how Senate Bill 11 plays into Cop City protestors’ prosecution and investigation. I understand that Mayor Dickens may wish to be Brian Kemp’s current henchman, but I’m not sure House and Senate Democrats wish to be.  The Cop City kabuki theater of a press-blocked presser on “compromise” isn’t great PR for the Mayor, but it does make Brian Kemp look like an incredibly effective Governor who might be able to ride this new “moderate” persona all the way to the White House, considering the crazy town train the Governor of Florida seems to have caught. Here’s the APF’s biggest sponsor’s media team’s coverage of yesterday’s presser.

Note the second paragraph:

“Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond have also signed a new, five-page agreement that solidifies recommendations made by a citizen advisory committee about how the facility will operate; reiterates environmental protections; and promotes potential job opportunities for local residents.”

This is the same committee that removed the vocal and authoritative environmental voice on the committee. You know, the lady who does this AS A JOB. She was removed by a second offered by the President of the board I serve. When asked about this in the presser, I believe by past Peach Pundit contributor, George Chidi, Mayor Dickens identified that as an “opinion”. I kid you not, the tech bro Mayor mansplained away the professional knowledge of the woman appointed for her knowledge and who was removed for her vocal use of that professional knowledge.

Bless his heart. This is a baaaaaaaaad look, yo. VERY Kasim, less Franklin.

Either way, these decisions have economic impact on residents. I encourage those with access to MLS to look at all the properties that are newly available in the South River Forest area.

And no matter which media outlets the Mayor wishes to take a shine to this weekend, he has to come back to Atlanta to either put this limping dog of a bad idea out of its misery or lay down beside it.

He’s clearly going to get fleas either way. Some folks are already demanding his resignation.

I just hope legislators around the state know what Senate Bill 11 means and how it intersects with the Cop City issue in Atlanta when they vote on it tomorrow today.

The Mayor and city and county leaders can choose not to listen to the citizens if they wish, but there are consequences to those actions, namely that it’s now being raised to the state level with legislation on moving investigation of “domestic terrorism” to the jurisdiction of the GBI. While legislators cannot legislate behavior, they can control jurisdiction of investigations of behavior and requirements therein, including requiring body cams of the troopers involved in such investigations. I believe Atlanta’s own son put it best when he described riots as the language of the unheard. And while the body camera footage may not yet be available, when it comes out, it won’t make this situation better for any of the leaders I mentioned above. In fact, I will respectfully assert that this issue is moving up from local to state action because of the unwillingness of Atlanta metro leaders to listen to their own people.

General Assembly members across the aisles have the opportunity to call upon the GBI to require body cameras on Troopers for the gift of this new jurisdiction over investigations. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but watch the General Assembly make it one, sadly.

“The truth will be told, sooner or later, and since, unlike fine wine and good bourbon, bad news does not improve with age, it is always best to be transparent, to tell the truth, tell it fast, and tell it all.” -The New Guardians: Policing in American’s Communities for the 21st Century, Dr. Cedric Alexander, previous Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety and previous Police Chief in DeKalb County.

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