Dear Decaturish – Where we stand on the proposed police and fire training facility, aka ‘Cop City’Rev. Keyanna Jones, (left) an interfaith leader from DeKalb County and Rev. Ashley Robinson, pastor of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, sing and march arm and arm on Monday, March 6, 2023, to deliver letters signed by faith leaders to the Atlanta City Council expressing their moral stance against the destruction of the South River Forest and the construction of Cop City. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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We the undersigned clergy and people of faith from the Decatur area believe in communicating through non-violent actions. We condemn any violent action that brings harm to others, including violent destruction of property, the violence of economic injustice, the violence of environmental racism, the violence of police brutality and the militarization of police forces. We believe in communicating our love for our community through protesting with our vote, our voices, and our peaceful dissent.
We affirm that we believe all people have God-given rights to be treated with respect and to have a meaningful voice in decisions that have an impact on them. Therefore, we insist that:
— Governments must be accountable and transparent in making decisions affecting public welfare.
Fact: when the City of Atlanta held less than 17 hours of public hearings about the facility, 70% of respondents opposed it.
— Citizens, particularly those most directly affected by the proposed training facility, must be given a fair opportunity to be heard and their views considered.
Fact: Opportunities for citizen input have been woefully inadequate, and at least two members of the “Citizen Advisory Council” resigned when their opposition was disregarded.
Fact: The neighborhoods closest to the forest are mostly Black, with large shares of low-income residents. They’ve endured six landfills nearby, five prisons, two demolished public housing sites, and a host of trucking and other industrial companies.
— Any punishment sought for those accused of breaking the law must be consistent with the nature of the offense.
Fact: Protestors who were arrested for alleged acts of vandalism have been accused of “domestic terrorism” and held without bond or with bond of $350,000.
We believe that the earth and all its inhabitants are precious and that we humans are responsible for being good stewards of the earth’s resources and inhabitants. Therefore, we insist that:
— Provisions of the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections be vigorously and thoroughly enforced.
Fact: The nearby South River, a tributary of which runs through the affected area, is already dangerously silted. Proposed land clearances will make that problem worse and are in violation of the Clean Water Act.
— Preservation of green spaces and tree canopy are vitally important and must be diligently protected.
Fact: The removal of large numbers of trees will negatively impact air quality and possibly increase temperatures in the already impacted Atlanta metro area.
We believe that law enforcement agencies and their individual agents are responsible for ensuring public safety and respecting the dignity and worth of every citizen. Therefore:
— We oppose the militarization of law enforcement training and equipment.
Fact: Plans call for shooting ranges, spaces for militarized drills, a Blackhawk helicopter landing pad, and a mock city complete with buildings and roads to allow the Atlanta Police Department—as well as other police agencies drawn from all over the region—to practice urban policing.
Fact: Law enforcement officers removing peaceful protestors from the site have used military-style assault weapons and militarized, tank-like vehicles.
— We support measures that address the root causes of crime, including poverty, inadequate education, and lack of mental health resources.
Fact: Mental health resources in Georgia are woefully inadequate, resulting in many mentally ill people being confronted by ill-equipped police and housed in jails and prisons. Fact: As of 2020 40 percent of people in Georgia were poor or low-wealth. About 1.9 million people in Georgia make under $15 an hour, which is 47% of Georgia’s work force.
Rev. Ashley Robinson, Pastor, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, GA
Rev. Leah Lonsbury, Member, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, GA
Rev. Bob Duvall, Member, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, GA
Leslie Withers, Chair of Church Council, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, GA
Dr. Lynn Farmer, Historian, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, GA
Rebecca Drysdale, Member, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, GA
Mary H. Smarr, Elder, Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, Decatur, GA
Rev. David Lewicki, North Decatur Presbyterian Church, Decatur, GA
Rev. Kali Cawthon-Freels, The Faith Community, Atlanta, GA
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