Cop City, Atlanta Police, Surveilling

‘Cop City’ Opposition Accuse Atlanta Police Of ‘Constant Stalking’ By Harshly Surveilling Them 

The actions allegedly started in February 2024 following a pre-dawn raid of three Atlanta houses on Feb. 8.

Atlanta police are accused of stalking people and neighborhoods who oppose the new police training center now famously known as “Cop City.” 

Residents of the allegedly targeted neighborhoods claim law enforcement has been following opposing people in cars, blasting sirens outside bedroom windows, and shining headlights into homes at night. The actions allegedly started in February 2024 following a pre-dawn raid of three Atlanta houses on Feb. 8, where police and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began looking for evidence related to arson of construction and police equipment. 

Since then, police have been accused of setting up shop in four neighborhoods and focusing on close to 12 homes – including the homes that were previously raided. 

Both marked and unmarked cars were allegedly parked close by, driving by slowly, and then leaving when approached by residents. 

One resident of the raided neighborhood remembered being in the care of another person and being followed by a car for over four hours. This prompted them to drive outside county lines into the neighboring county of Gwinnett. A Gwinnett police officer pulled them over after stopping at a drive-thru and gave them a ticket for having the car’s license plate in the back window and not on the bumper.

Close to ten other residents in different Atlanta neighborhoods shared similar experiences of increased Atlanta police presence in recent months. The same person followed in the car for hours said he was startled in March 2024 after a police car blasted a siren outside their home around 3:30 am. “I’m not a lawyer,” he said. “But it eventually reaches the point of harassment – how do you tell cops they’ve crossed that threshold?”

With no arrests being made, residents are confused about what privacy and harassment laws are in place to protect them. 

Social movement historian Dan Berger connects this level of surveillance to the civil rights era, calling the actions “naked intimidation with plausible deniability attached to it.”

“A common strategy of police work is, when a movement reaches a point of threat, the powers that be begin actively trying to scare them out of existence – showing them they know where they live, who they hang out with,” Berger added.

Lawyer and law professor at the American University Washington College of Law, Andrew Ferguson, points the finger at the courts for giving law enforcement this intimidation power. “Generally speaking, courts have given police the power to investigate crimes,” he said. “The problem is, abuse and harassment are usually harder to define … and there aren’t great external laws to say, ‘You can’t do this.’”

Atlanta police say that Cop City is needed for “world-class” training. Being built on a 171-acre lot just southeast of Atlanta, the city council received public outcry after 11 members voted in favor of the project in June 2023, while only four voted against it. Opposing voices who feel the city’s resources should be used in other productive and less harmful ways. 

After the city of Atlanta tried to halt the “Stop Cop City” initiative from activists, a federal judge denied the appeal as organizers of the Vote to Stop Cop City coalition claim they gathered close to 80,000 signatures in August 2023, which was more than its original goal of 70,000 announced at the start of the campaign in June.

Despite growing concerns in ATL, other cities are adopting plans to build training facilities. According to Teen Vogue, a new $50 million police station featuring a “regional training facility” was approved to be built in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2023, plans for a $170 million “public safety training facility” were revealed in Chicago.