The Racist History of Atlanta Explains its Desire to Build Cop City
When many people think of Atlanta, they think of Black power. They see images of black folks doing well, in political power, owning businesses, flossing on music videos, and the like. All of this hides a very dark reality and history of Atlanta.
Originally Georgia was designed to be an all-white colony. That changed when James Ogelthorpe, an ancestor of now governor Brian Kemp, petitioned the King of England to allow the importation of enslaved Africans in the 1730s. After that, Georgia became a major trading hub of enslaved Africans. After the Civil War, Atlanta became a major place for formerly enslaved Black people they necessarily built communities, churches, and institutions due to the enforced segregation of Jim Crow laws. The political and economic power of the Black community angered the white elite and working class of the city, inspiring the Atlanta Massacre of 1906. This was triggered by rumors of rape by a Black man in the city reported by the now Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which sent white mobs throughout the city burning Black neighborhoods and murdering black people. This was not an all out white on black assault though. Many white people were killed in self-defense. W.E.B Dubois, then a teacher at the now Clark Atlanta University remarked how he stayed up on his porch with a shotgun ready for the white mobs should they appear. This massacre led to a tacit agreement with those in the Black elite and white elite to prevent future Black rebellions known as the Atlanta Way. To accommodate the Black elite, overt Jim Crow laws were dampened in the city and a select few black entrepreneurs were allowed to operate within a segregated economy. This did not end white supremacy in the city. The Atlanta massacre was another example j of an all-out war on black communities that continues to this day.
Black people built communities in the city of Atlanta throughout the Jim Crow era. Some of these neighborhoods included Summerhill, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, and Old Fourth Ward. These neighborhoods were always targeted for destruction via slum clearance policies, highway construction, and urban renewal. The legacy of this is visible today as the Fulton County/Braves/Georgia State Stadium and GA/Mercedes Domes have been built in historic black communities displacing black residents. Highways were built through Pittsburgh, Summerhill, and the Old Fourth Ward, destroying those communities. In the 1960s, Atlanta was home to numerous Black resistance movements. Students from the Atlanta University Center formed the Atlanta Movement challenging segregation in the city. This pressure led to the city becoming “a place too busy to hate,” a propaganda campaign to hide city segregation and make it appear the city was trying to desegregate. In 1967, a police officer murdered a Black teen in Summerhill, the neighborhood where the new Atlanta Fulton County Stadium was built via urban renewal. In response, there was a community uprising. Soon thereafter, baseball player Hank Aaron was brought down to the Atlanta Braves to again make the city appear more progressive.
The 1970s brought the election of Atlanta’s first black mayor Maynard Jackson and more Black leaders onto the police force. The Atlanta Police Department (APD) was always a Klan outfit, and the first black officers were not even allowed until 1940. Even then, they were only allowed to arrest black people. The election of Black leadership brought about a massive backlash in what is commonly referred to as The Atlanta Child Murders, the murders and abductions of young Black children from 1979 up until 1983. This terrorized the Black community and the official death toll was nearly 29 people, mostly children. However, many people were left off the death toll, so the real number is closer to 100. The Klan openly supported the murders in their hopes to start a race war. Since APD was and still is a Klan outfit, they definitely had support from numerous officers in carrying out this genocidal four-year campaign. The city’s Black leaders panicked as community trust in them was eroding, so they continued working with white elites to prevent Black rebellion. Wayne Williams, a Black man was arrested and found guilty on the flimsiest of evidence for two murders, then blamed for the remaining 27 murders with no proof.. To this day, all of those murders are still unsolved, allowing the Klan to get away with the biggest act of domestic terrorism in US history.
The 1980s brought about continued mass incarceration which was a pretext to mass ethnic cleansing into the 90s. The city won the bid for the Summer Olympics in 1990 and started the ethnic cleansing which still plagues the city today. The city which had built the first public housing in the country sought to eliminate all public housing under the guise of preparation for the Olympics. Before the Olympics, the city also offered money to homeless people to leave the city and never return. Then came more stadiums, the GA dome and Braves Stadiums which further displaced black residents. Recently, the city has implemented the Beltline Project to eliminate black people from the city, and former APD officers openly admit the force is there to gentrify the city.
In the midst of this “Black excellence” commonly referenced in U.S. media, the illusion of Black power and wealth are some harsh realities. Atlanta has the highest income inequality in the country. The city has the most Confederate monuments of any city in the country. Nearly a quarter of Black residents live in poverty. Nearly 22 percent of Black people are unemployed. The median household income for Blacks is 28k, while whites have 78k. Atlanta still has the highest level of gentrification in the country. Also, Georgia has the highest incarceration rate on the planet and Black infant and maternal mortality is some of the worst on the planet.
In the midst of ongoing poverty and inequality came the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility, commonly known as Cop City among many opponents of the development. It is a project which the city plans to give $150 million to the Republican-led, corporate-controlled Atlanta Police Foundation so they can build a for-profit police training facility in a poor black community and destroy it. The training will involve urban warfare, a mock city for crowd control, and firing ranges (i.e. attacks on black people). The city council openly admitted that this is needed to end gang violence( i.e. attacking black people). For many Atlanta residents, this comes as a surprise as to why the city would engage in political assassinations against forest defenders, political prosecutions of protestors, and complete elimination of the First Amendment to build this project; the city’s history of outright terrorism, slavery, and genocide shows that this is just a continuation of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. The city has been waging war on Black people for nearly two centuries and the building of Cop City will allow that war to persist. Atlanta was once a slave trading depot and now it wants to build the largest slave-catching depot in the country, but the Black community and organizers have been rising up to oppose it.
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