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May 21, 23

Storming In: Struggle in Atlanta Against Cop City Continues Despite Repression

Report from Atlanta, as demonstrations continue against the Cop City project in the face of ongoing repression.

On May 15th, around 500 people assembled in the atrium of the Atlanta City Hall. To date, this is the largest local participation in a protest (fundraisers, concerts, parties, etc. not included) for the movement to defend Weelaunee and stop Cop City. Other protests outside of the Weeks of Action have never been more than 250 people, until now.

In the atrium, hundreds of people chanted “Viva Viva Tortuguita,” in the memory of the forest defender killed by Georgia State Patrol officers on January 18th, 2023. Other chants, including “Stop Cop City,” “Cop City Will Never Be Built,” and “Fuck 12” echoed throughout the chambers and hallways of the building throughout the entire day.

As hundreds lined up to speak, hundreds more stood around talking. The atmosphere was joyous and triumphal. Clearly, most of those assembled were not interested in talking to the City Council, per se, but were more interested in castigating them directly, or disrupting the peace of the City Hall in general. Furthermore, it is clear that while some anarchists have been in a state of disarray, “critique”, and wait-and-see, many others have been pushing ahead full steam. Thankfully, the decentralized nature of the movement allows for this kind of ebb and flow.

After 288 people — accounting for almost 8 hours of comments at 2 minutes per person – signed up to speak, the sign up list was closed. This was more than double the most amount of attendees as a City Council meeting in Atlanta history. Hundreds more stood in line and used this opportunity to surge ahead, pushing up close to the doors of the Council chambers where the police stood guard. For a moment, it seemed possible that a clash would take place. Had a physical confrontation erupted outside the meeting, it is quite likely the meeting would have been halted early. This would have contributed to a deepening of the political crisis facing the administration. Ahead of the next Week of Action starting June 24th, anything that contributes to this crisis should be pursued.

Most of the speeches that were delivered were filled with pure vitriol and contempt for the pro-police council people. Almost all of the speakers demanded the defunding of Cop City and of the APD in general. The imaginary of this kind of abolitionist generally seems to advocate for the “reallocation” of public funds to “social services” such as libraries, schools, housing, etc.

Rather than sit back in their heavenly purity, revolutionaries should continue to advance coherent, approachable, and realistic perspectives within the movement.

To the legalistic abolitionists, socialists, and others currently fighting bravely and continuously in the movement to stop Cop City: the period of class-reconciliation and social democracy is over. It ended in 1980, following a serious global recession and labor crisis initiated by the oil proletariat in the OPEC countries in 1979. As a class-wide reaction, the neoliberal order was built in the US and the UK and globally exported over the following decades (and into the present).

This model allows capitalists and financiers to privately extract profits, and to dump their losses or risks onto the governments that support them. The model of FDR, New Deal, capitalism will not return because the profit margins of the global ruling class are strained from rising energy costs and global competition between firms and also between state-run enterprises (especially in oil and real estate). In order to retain profit margins and growth models appropriate to the 21st century, attacks on labor in the form of wage cuts and automation are systematic, global, and just getting started.

In the coming century, extracting rents will continue to yield greater returns for the rich than exploiting labor did in previous eras. Because of this, greater swaths of humanity are being expelled from the formal economy (legal jobs), or having their participation in it subsidized purely on credit cards and loans. To contain this growing swath, which does not have a regular schedule or investment in society, which tends to be highly educated relative to previous generations, but which is not so miserable that it cannot engage in political culture and mobilization, violence will continue to be one of the preferred strategies of the ruling classes around the world and domestically.

When ideology and private security do not suffice, they will use their traditional methods – the police, armies, prisons, etc – to control the situation. Only abolishing the state can produce conditions for the unmediated clash between the excluded and poor supermajority and the exploiters who control everything. It is this contradiction that has created the system of global incarceration that we know today. In that context, the context of open revolutionary crisis, it is conceivable that millions of people can seize housing, expropriate farmlands, demolish prisons, abolish the police, and more. This is the most realistic path ahead for abolishing the police and the racial order they maintain.

Moving Forward

The June 5th City Council meeting is expected to vote on whether or not to extend an additional $30M to the Police Foundation for building Cop City. If they do not, the project could fall apart (according to APF emails with City of Atlanta this past winter). If the Council votes to deliver the loan, it will take place against a mass mobilization. The reaction could be immediate. The consequences for a decision like this would potentially push many to act against the project, just as the 17 hours of civic opposition in 2021 have done in the eyes of many movement sympathizers around the world. This sympathy is not something that can be discounted, especially if the coming months requires forest defenders and their friends to expand their struggle against the project.

Let’s not contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict by sitting back and waiting for the perfect moment. Let’s not convince people to shrug off repression with “radical” perspectives that naturalize their own debasement and oppression (“yeah obviously this wasn’t going to work,” “why did you even think City Council would stop anything” etc.)

Let’s bring the situation to a boil. Let’s set the stage for the next offensive.

photo: Crimethinc via BlueSky

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