Facing a lawsuit from opponents of a proposed Atlanta police and fire training center, the city clerk on Wednesday approved a petition seeking to force a voter referendum to stop the complex. .
The approval of the petition, which was rejected twice by the clerk due to technicalities, removes a significant obstacle for “Stop Cop City” activists, who are preparing to collect more than 70,000 signatures by August 15 to participate on the November ballot.
Demonstrators say they hope they can start collecting signatures on Thursday, barring any delays from the clerk’s office.
“We are grateful that the Municipal Clerk has fulfilled his legal obligation to acknowledge our repeated efforts to incorporate his requested changes in a timely manner,” said Mariah Parker, who filed the initial petition.
Angered by Waldon’s initial rejection of the petition, activists filed a lawsuit against the city on Tuesday and asked a judge to force Waldon to approve the form.
Waldon confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that he approved the petition. He declined to comment on the case.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and others say the $90 million center will replace inadequate training facilities and help address the difficulties in hiring and retaining police officers that have worsened after protests across the country. nation against police brutality and racial injustice three years ago.
But opponents, joined by activists from around the country, say they fear it will lead to greater militarization of the police and that its construction will worsen environmental damage in a poor, mostly-Black place The “Stop Cop City” effort has been ongoing for more than two years and has sometimes veered into vandalism and violence.
The initial petition was filed on June 7, a day after the City Council rejected hundreds of requests by protesters to deny funding to the training facility.
The referendum will ask voters if they want to repeal the ordinance that allows the leasing of city-owned land where the project is slated to be built.
In order for the language to make it onto the ballot, organizers must first gather the signatures of more than 70,000 registered voters in Atlanta. They asked for money to pay the canvassers.
Construction crews have begun clearing large swaths of deforested, urban forest in an unincorporated area of DeKalb County ahead of construction on the 85-acre (34-hectare) campus. Opponents of the project say they plan to seek a court order to halt work pending the outcome of their ballot effort.
As approved by the City Council in September 2021, the land is leased to the private Atlanta Police Foundation for $10 a year. The proposed referendum would seek to cancel that agreement.
Photo: Protesters at the Atlanta City Council meeting in June, which approved funding for the training center. (Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
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