As Atlanta intends on embarking on building a new military fortress “Cop City” and destroying an ancient forest to do so, it is important to look at some largely censored recent history of APD and how they failed to protect the most vulnerable citizens in Atlanta, poor Black children. From May 1979 to June 1981, nearly 29 Black children and young adults (mostly boys) were kidnapped and murdered. A Black man, Wayne Williams, was only charged with two of the murders based on very flimsy fiber evidence, which the FBI admits is flawed and then the remaining cases were closed. There were also numerous victims who were not included on the official “list”, meaning that although the official number of deaths is listed at 29, there could have been nearly 100 victims of a mass murdering spree that took place in Atlanta under the city’s first Black mayor.
By all accounts, the Atlanta child murders were some of the biggest acts of serial killing in the country that has ever affected Black people. APD was totally unprepared to handle such a grave travesty like this and had bungled the investigation from the very beginning, according to a former APD detective, Chet Dillinger. These murders traumatized and terrorized the entire Black community in Atlanta and surrounding areas. There were community-based attempts to keep residents safe, and APD actually criminalized and arrested those people instead of the actual murderers. Many in the Black community suspected that white supremacists were involved in these disappearances and murders and they turned out to be largely correct. An APD informant notified APD that the Klan had openly bragged and discussed plans to murder one Black child a month to protest school integration and busing.
At the time, the Klan and white supremacist movement were experiencing a surge because of the openly racist rhetoric brought about by Reagan’s presidential ascendancy and white backlash to the rise of Black political figures like Maynard Jackson. Around the time of the Atlanta child murders, the Klan, in cahoots with the FBI and local police, murdered local union and Communist organizers fighting to organize and improve the working conditions of Black textile workers in Greensboro, NC in 1979. A year before 1979, the white supremacist Turner Diaries laid out a blueprint for all-out race war. Just like the Trump takeover witnessed the rise of white supremacist vigilantes (i.e. Proud Boys) working in cahoots with the feds and local police to crush Black and anti-Trump resistance, white supremacists in the Reagan era were doing the exact same thing to terrorize Black communities as the initiative to rollback civil rights and terrorize Black communities was gaining full steam. You actually had white supremacists who were involved in the terrorist bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 who openly called for the murdering of Black people around this time.
Given this white supremacist climate and even letters to the AJC where white supremacists threatened to murder of Black youth in opposition of school busing, it should have come as no surprise that the Klan would be a potential suspect in the Atlanta murders. Georgia has always been a Klan hub and the rebirth of the Klan took place 30 miles outside of Atlanta at the Confederate Monument, Stone Mountain Park, the largest white supremacy monument in the world. The APD kept this informant’s information secret and turned it over to the GBI, who did a more thorough secret investigation. They kept it secret as they wanted to prevent a race riot but yet had no problems with the Klan openly waging a race war in their words. They discovered that the Klan was in fact, involved based on audiotapes and more GBI informants. The murders had gotten national attention and thus the FBI and Reagan administration got involved. It was then decided by the Reagan administration, FBI, GBI, APD, state of Georgia, and local Black political elites that a cover-up had to take place and the Klan investigation was to be buried. An innocent Black man was to be framed to prevent a race riot and further negative publicity. The FBI took over the case and spent millions of dollars to convict him and the remaining unsolved cases were pinned on Williams without any evidence or even a conviction. When Williams appealed his case, one of the Georgia Supreme Court justices got a phone call from Vice President Bush instructing him not to rule in Williams’ favor even though it was clear that his appeal was solid, evidence was flimsy, and that there were in fact more admittedly credible suspects. There have numerous films, books, and docuseries exposing this serious travesty of justice and cover up which continues to this day and this legacy is relevant to the APD’s desire to build a new military base where they will detonate bombs and conduct urban warfare under the guise of “fighting crime.”
If APD actually protected and served the Klan and covered up their involvement in the biggest act of white domestic terrorism in US history, can they be trusted to actually reduce crime by building a new “Cop City?” The problem of crime in Atlanta is a direct product of homelessness, a housing crisis, lack of social services, poverty, nation leading income inequality, high unemployment particularly amongst African Americans, the economic collapse brought about by COVID, and a lack of government support. Atlanta’s crime problem is also a direct legacy of segregation, redlining, the racist war on drugs, and enslavement of Africans. Georgia’s unemployment office literally has been closed for months and thousands have been denied unemployment benefits. On top of that, Georgia is a right-to-work state meaning employers have the right to fire you at will and artificially keep wages extremely low. Georgia also has an extremely poor social safety net, i.e. welfare, Medicaid, and food stamps, due to anti-Blackness, which worsens poverty and thus increases crime. In reality, just like APD covered up Klan involvement in the Atlanta child murders to prevent a race riot, this rapid push to build a new Cop City in the middle of a pandemic is in direct response to the George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks riots/rebellions which took place in the city and resulted in significant destruction of rich white billionaire and corporations’ properties. This is also a direct smack in the face of the push by local activists to defund APD after the murder of Rayshard Brooks, too. This facility will be used to suppress those movements and further gentrify and terrorize Black communities. Instead of building new Cop Cities, the city should invest more time and resources in finally prosecuting the white supremacist sociopaths who killed Atlanta’s Black children which is actually something Keisha Bottoms promised to do (So far, all we have is memorials to these victims). Along with this, the city should defund the police and invest more resources to address the problems of poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, income inequality, housing insecurity, poor mental health, drug addiction, trauma, and racism which lead to increased crime. To support the movement to stop Cop City, please go to www.atldsa.org/stopcopcity or to www.communitymovementbuilders.org.
By Curtis Duncan