Rise Up to Stop Cop City

In light of the nation’s largest militarized police training center being approved by Atlanta’s City Council, which will result in severe deforestation, and resistance to the training center being severely criminalized, Unitarian Universalists are called to use our voices to say NO to Cop City.

Proposed by Rev. Jason Lydon Minister, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, and supported by Rev. Taryn Strauss and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta.

WHEREAS, consistent with Unitarian Universalism’s living tradition, our 6th principle on a peaceful and justice world, our 7th principle on the interdependent web of existence, and our 8th principle on accountably dismantling racism, we affirm that the proliferation of policing at the expense of Black communities and the Earth is a threat to safety, sustainability, and Beloved Community everywhere;

WHEREAS, the Atlanta Police Foundation, in partnership with the Atlanta City Government and a committee of more than 40 corporate donors, has proposed the construction of a $90 million militarized urban warfare training complex, deemed “Cop City,” in the heart of a predominantly Black

WHEREAS, the construction of the Cop City campus requires the destruction of 381 acres of land in one of Atlanta’s largest remaining green spaces, known as Welaunee Forest, South River Forest, and one of the “four lungs” of

WHEREAS, the Welaunee Forest is sacred land to the Muskogee people, who the U.S. government forcibly from their ancestral homelands in what is referred to today as the city of Atlanta in the 1820’s and 1830’s, and its further destruction continues the U.S. government’s centuries of violence and land dispossession against Indigenous nations and people[3];

WHEREAS, organizers who mobilized against police violence and the police murder of Rashad Brooks during the Summer 2020 Uprisings called for the Atlanta City Government to divest from policing, invest in non-policing solutions to community safety, and give control over public safety resources to community members rather than government officials;

WHEREAS, members of the Atlanta Police Department, Georgia State Police, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have already deployed violence in their continued efforts to build the Cop City complex and proven that their efforts do not increase community safety, including the murder of Indigenous nonbinary forest defender Manuel (Manny) “Tortugita” Terán, who was shot at least 57 times while sitting cross-legged with their hands raised, and the arrests of and “domestic terrorism” charges against at least 45 activists between January and June 2023[4];

WHEREAS, pressure from Stop Cop City organizers and activists over the past two years has already resulted in the public divestment of individuals and corporations from the construction of Cop City, and continuation of these efforts is likely to lead to further divestment[5];

WHEREAS, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), Unitarian Universalist Mass Action (UUMA), and Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) have already joined more than 50 local, state, and national organizations in calling for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to terminate the city’s lease of the Welaunee Forest to the Atlanta Police Foundation and resign his position as mayor[6];

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT as Unitarian Universalists we recognize the momentum of collective action to demand social change and we call upon the UUA and its member congregations to Stop Cop City;

THEREFORE, we will take action through self-organized phone zaps, mass email campaigns, personal and institutional divestment from banks funding Cop City construction, and other solidarity actions against investors, funders, and other corporate partners across the U.S. and Canada[7];

THEREFORE, we will support those engaged in direct action to Stop Cop City with spiritual and material resources, writing letters to incarcerated activists, calling for their immediate release from jail, demanding that all charges against them be dropped, and providing spiritual care for protestors and survivors of police violence;

THEREFORE, we will continue and expand local, state, and engagement through UU organizations to deepen our theological grounding in issues of environmental justice and policing and prison abolition;

:page_facing_up: Download as a PDF

  1. Micah Herskind, This is the Atlanta Way: A Primer on Cop City, Scalawag Magazine, May 2023 ↩︎

  2. Welaunee Forest / South River Forest is referred to as one of the four lungs of Atlanta on page 39 of this city planning document, Our Future City ↩︎

  3. Land Acknowledgement & Commitment, Stop Cop City ↩︎

  4. ACLU, How Officials in Georgia are Suppressing Political Protest as Domestic Terrorism, March and Jocelyn Simonson, The Details of the Atlanta Bail Fund Arrest are Even More Horrific Than First Described, Slate, June 2023 ↩︎

  5. According to Stop Cop City Solidarity, Reeves Young Construction and Quality Glass Company have publicly announced that they will no longer be involved in Cop City construction and Emory University
    President Claire Sterk has resigned from the Atlanta Police Foundation Board of Directors ↩︎

  6. Community Demands Dickens Cancel Lease & Resign as Mayor, Stop Cop City ↩︎

  7. Additional virtual / remote and community actions and action support can be found at Stop Cop City Solidarity ↩︎


Yes! Strongly support this AIW.


I think this is a very well written AIW and I appreciate all the links to supporting articles.


For latest status of the Cop City situation:

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In my opinion, this would be a good choice to bring forward as one of the 3 AIWs. Since it is a very active situation right now and it’s local politics (not national) I think we have a better chance at real impact than some of the other proposed AIWs. Ground has not been broken yet, and the protestors are enduring real hardships.

Out of about 350 residents who spoke at the city council, only 4 were in favor. Posting another link here where you can hear from local protestors. FASCIST Funding of Cop City Escalates - YouTube


I also found this interview of Will Potter, author of Green Is the New Red about repression of animal-rights activists/journalists by Chris Hedges enlightening:

Given the important words in the preamble, we should reflect upon the fact that the 6th Principle (“The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.”) has been deleted entirely from the UUA Article II Revision text. Nowhere do the words “peace” or “liberty” occur in the new Article II text.

According to the NTY article:
“Just before the final vote, council members amended the proposal to include a list of new requirements: The facility cannot use helicopters and explosives, and training must include programming that teaches officers to safeguard free speech; to minimize and recognize biases; and to avoid interactions with residents that escalate into angry and possibly violent confrontations.”

If the center is being used to facilitate free speech, de-escalation etc, training and if it excludes helicopters and explosives, it sounds like a helpful way to change the Atlanta Police culture.

My question is, why can’t that training happen at existing centers already under lease?

That is a very good question, and although they have put lipstick on this pig, I think it is still a pig (sorry for colliding clichés; not intending to use the police/pig reference).

We have seen before that training programs generally don’t work; we need to verify the bans on helicopters and explosives. I have not seen any suggestion that it is intended to facilitate free speech or deëscalation training; the amount of push-back the community is providing would seem to be the rationale for that rhetoric, in hopes of blunting opposition, but it is not working.

Atlanta, I have been told, used to appreciate forests and green space as a way to avoid air conditioning; why are they not renovating tehir old center instead of destroying a forest adjacent to communities of color, unceded indigenous land?

Why did the Atlanta Police and Georgia Bureau of Investigations arrest 3 organizers of the bail fund? Why so many charged with domestic terrorism when they were simply camping or attending/organizing a music festival?

I agree! AIW is doing some great work.

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UUJEC statement:
The Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, UUJEC, is pleased to endorse the Rise Up to Support Cop City. We see this as a first-amendment issue, with local and state law enforcement agencies responding in an extreme manner to largely peaceful protests, and attempting to tie together a small number of destructive acts with campers and music festival goers exercising their rights of assembly and protest. From the police killing of 26-year-old Tortuguita to the raid on a family-friendly music festival, law enforcement has overreacted.

The issue first reached national attention with the police killing of environmental activist Tortuguita. When activists across the country travelled to Weelaunee Forest in protest, law enforcement responded with charges of domestic terrorism. Later, the Atlanta Police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested bail-fund managers, chilling activists’ constitutional rights to assemble and protest. The local community is opposed to the destruction of a forest on indigenous land—open space adjacent to low-income Black and brown communities—as hundreds spoke against Cop City at an Atlanta city council meeting. The arrest of bail-fund managers combined with the strength of local opposition to a militarized facility designed to train local law enforcement and fire fighters in urban warfare makes it clear that this is a defining moment in resistance to government repression and police brutality.

We stand in solidarity with those who would protect the Weelaunee Forest and resist police militarization.

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