Editor's Notes: Interviewee chose to not use their full name.
On September 22, 2023, Atlanta activist Mark stopped in Gainesville as a part of the Weelaunee Worldwide Mass Action Speaking Tour. The tour consists of multiple activists traveling across 70 cities to encourage listeners to travel to Atlanta from November 10th through the 13th for the Block Cop City protest. Mark led a presentation about the Stop Cop City movement and encouraged listeners to talk amongst themselves about what they are and are not capable of doing to assist the protest. I got the chance to talk to Mark afterward about the successes and challenges of the Stop Cop City movement, as well as plans for the Block Cop City protest.
Q: How much natural land is being paved over for Cop City to be built?
A: 500 acres are being threatened. Nothing has been constructed yet, but 80 acres have been cut down. They haven’t yet gotten to the point where there’s piping, sewage, or concrete being laid out.
Q: Does anything similar to Cop City already exist?
A: There are police training facilities all over the country. This would be the largest one in the country and the most state-of-the-art in terms of how to do urban warfare. It’s the most intense of its kind, but there are others like it.
Q: How do large police training facilities affect the cities they are built in?
A: I can say their effect is that the police are becoming more violent as time goes on, continuing to just murder civilians with impunity all the time. These are the places where they are trained on how to oppress people.
Q: How can Cop City affect other places?
A: The Atlanta Police Foundation estimates that 43% of cops that will be trained there will not be cops from Georgia, let alone just Atlanta police. They will be training cops all over the country, and Atlanta is not the biggest city in the country. You can bet that other cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, or New York, after seeing how big the Atlanta police’s training facility is, will want to have a bigger one of their own.
Q: What are the main ways people are opposing Cop City?
A: People have used direct action, like the sabotage of construction vehicles. People have done a public pressure campaign against the construction companies that are working for the Atlanta Police Foundation. The movement has already gotten three companies to step back and cancel their involvement with the project. There have been cultural events to promote the movement and forge bonds. We have a referendum with 116,000 signatures calling for there to be a people’s vote on whether people in Atlanta even want Cop City. There’s also a faith coalition against the construction of Cop City.
Q: What are the biggest challenges this movement has faced?
A: Intense police repression. Manuel Esteban Paez “Tortuguita” Terán was already murdered by police while sitting down with their hands in the air. They’ve arrested over 100 people, two of whom are still in jail. This isn’t like the George Floyd uprising, where 25 million people were mobilized after learning about an egregious police murder and then, over the course of a week, completely wrecked shit. This is a protracted struggle that's been happening for almost three years.
Q: What are you doing on the three days of mobilization before the 13th?
A: The 10th and 11th are days for people to get there and get trained on how to be in an affinity group. There will also be cultural events like shows and concerts. On the 12th, those trained affinity groups will have a spokes council where they will talk and plan together on what they will do on the day of. Then, on Monday, November 13th, they will go to that construction site and stop work for the day.
Q: How big do you think the protest has to be on the 13th for it to be a success?
A: Hundreds, preferably a thousand people, but hundreds can do it.
Q: What advice would you have for people who are thinking about protesting but don’t really know where to start?
A: I think you should get with your friends, get with as few as five of them or as many as fifteen of them, and just do a risk assessment. Ask yourselves if you can handle this situation, and if the answer is yes, what can we bring to the situation? How can you or your group contribute to Block Cop City?
Q: How can mass-organized action Block Cop City?
A: Lobbying politicians does not work unless you’re a multi-millionaire. We are regular ass people, the only way that regular poor people can make change is by working together in large numbers and concentrating on knowing that the only way to make change is to force it to happen. So we will force it to happen, with our bodies and with our determination.
If you want more information about the Stop Cop City movement you can find their offical website here.