The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization founded in 1917 that works for peace and social justice in the U.S. and across the world, has released a list it says are corporations who have contracts to build the Atlanta’s controversial public safety training center, known as “Cop City” by opponents.
“The Companies and Foundations behind Cop City” report, released Oct. 2, also includes the names of foundations and companies who sponsor or donate to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), the private, nonprofit organization that is raising private funds to build the training center and overseeing its construction.
The AFSC said in an email the list is being released after the Atlanta Municipal Clerk’s Office decision on Sept. 29 to post online the names, addresses and phone numbers of people who signed petitions supporting a public vote on the training center. The list is also being released as community demands escalate for the release of police video of the killing of Johnny Hollman Sr., an AFSC spokesperson said.
“The people of Atlanta have shown tremendous strength and courage in standing up to the police and City Council in order to stop Cop City,” said Dov Baum, AFSC’s director of Corporate Accountability and Research, in a news release.
“But the forces that are driving this project are not just public officials. Big corporations have been donating millions of dollars to fund Cop City, and others are benefiting as contractors and sub-contractors,” Baum said. “While we can’t vote to remove them from office, we can demand that these companies take their hands out of policing our communities.”
Atlanta-based corporate and foundation donors, funders, and sponsors of the Atlanta Police Foundation that are listed include Home Depot; Delta Air Lines; the Coca-Cola Company; Chick-fil-A; and the James M. Cox Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cox Enterprises, owner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
AFSC officials said it plans to use the information gathered to pressure corporate sponsors to divest from the project. The organizations wants the corporations to instead “invest in the building blocks of true community safety by paying good wages to your workers, paying your fair share of taxes, and adopting sustainable and socially responsible business practices.”
“In this report, we tried to document carefully everything we could find about the corporate funders and supporters of the Atlanta Police Foundation and Cop City, aggregating many sources and previous reports, as listed in the report,” Baum said in an email to Rough Draft.
“Our hope that this can serve as a tool for activists around the country in general, and clients, investors, and business partners of these companies in particular, to join #StopCopCity and appeal to these companies to divest from the APF and all other police foundations,” Baum said. “Corporate-sponsored private foundations are not accountable to the public, and do not represent public interests. They should not be allowed to police our communities.”
Some updates and additions were made using ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer tool; APF’s webpage, meeting minutes, and financial documents; and additional media reports, according to the news release.
AFSC staff and supporters based in Atlanta worked with the Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition to collect what they say is more than 116,000 signatures of people who support a public vote on the training center. The number of signatures is about double what state law requires to put a referendum on the ballot. The referendum, however, remains in legal limbo until a final decision is made by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We want to preserve our urban forest and natural resources,” said Tim Franzen, director of AFSC’s Economic Justice Program in Atlanta, in the news release. “And we want our tax dollars to go toward schools, affordable housing, health care, and other programs that promote safety and well-being for all our community members.”
The proposed referendum would allow voters to choose if they want to repeal the ordinance that authorized the lease of roughly 300 acres of South River Forest land to the Atlanta Police Foundation. The APF has started construction of the training center on 85 acres.
Mayor Andre Dickens along with city and state officials have called the petition drive “invalid” and “futile.”
The mayor and other city officials have argued a new public safety training center for police and firefighters is needed to replace rundown facilities. They also argue the new facility is needed to recruit and retain police officers. The Atlanta Police Department, like many departments across the country, saw an exodus of officers following national protests against police brutality in 2020 sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
Opponents of the training center say building the complex would only lead to more police militarization and violence against Black and brown people. They also accuse the city of environmental racism for building the training center in a majority Black neighborhood.