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Cop City, Jackson, and the Expansion of Policing

Cop City, Jackson, and the Expansion of Policing

A couple weeks ago, allies of the Weelaunee Forest came together from across the country in a week of action, beginning with a music festival. A number of activists simultaneously started a different kind of action by setting fire to a construction site for Cop City, burning equipment and throwing projectiles at law enforcement. Unable to catch the offenders themselves, the cops then chose to attack the music festival, arresting concert-goers under pain of injury and death. 35 people were arrested, and 23 charged with domestic terrorism, which you may recall is a trend for Atlanta law enforcement.

Meanwhile, and for a while now, Jackson, Mississippi, has been struggling with several crises. I mentioned a while back that poor upkeep and storm damage essentially broke the water supply for the majority-Black Jackson, but the city has been struggling with another problem: the state government is trying to push for a state police force to patrol the city–supposedly to assist with a rise in crime–and simultaneously establish appointed, rather than elected, judges. While any police and carceral system sucks, a system put in place by a mostly-white government that doesn't represent your city sucks more.

What we're witnessing in Atlanta and Jackson are two arms of a single body with a single cause: the expansion of police powers. In Atlanta, that's happening by the state flexing existing powers–overreaching with criminal charges, attacking, arresting, and murdering innocent protesters. In Jackson, it's happening by the the grinding down of representation and strength of the people.

Cop City

Following the music festival, destruction of construction equipment, and the arrest of concert-goers, the movement to stop Cop City continued, and it's being met with resistance every step of the way. A small group of protesters who were going from office to office of organizations tied to Cop City were followed and harassed by a disproportionate number of Atlanta cops, and when the protesters attempted to leave in a vehicle they were stopped and cited for what amounts to bullshit. Another small group were flyering in the city and were ordered to disperse by APD despite causing no real hindrance to traffic or order. This group, handing out flyers, were face to face with a SWAT unit.

In addition to these events, police raided a home near the Weelaunee Forest, which was being used as a welcome area for forest defenders and a second campsite. Many were detained, and one arrested on an outstanding traffic citation. A warrant for the raid was never provided. This should be prickling your neckhairs. It's one (horrible) thing to raid a concert, to attack folks in protest, to harass people in supposed commission of disruption. It's another to raid a home, and to withhold the warrant supposedly authorizing the action.

Police and the Atlanta government are combatting the Stop Cop City movement any way they can, and that includes attempting to control the narrative. Of the thirty-some people arrested at the music festival, every resident of Georgia was released without charges. Those found to reside out of state were charged, thus creating the idea that the people fighting against Cop City are outside agitators. Since most of the media is bought and paid for–and local media is particularly susceptible to spouting early cop tales–this pushes the idea that out-of-state anarchists are causing all this trouble, and anyone anti-Cop City is just part of the problem.

Lastly, an autopsy of the murdered forest defender Tortuguita was released shortly after the events of the music festival. The report shows that Tortuguita was murdered while sitting cross-legged, with his hands raised. It cannot determine whether they were armed, but there was no gunpowder residue on their hands. One does not fire a gun in the middle of the forest, get murdered, and not have gunpowder on them. This contradicts the police line that Tortuguita shot an officer and was killed subsequently. In the wake of this information I think we can expect more fervent protest from the defenders of Weelaunee Forest.

Jackson, Mississippi

What's happening in Jackson is a bit more convoluted of a problem than the straightforward nightmare that is the construction of a facility meant to teach cops how to properly put down constitutionally-protected protests. Jackson has a long history of neglect, arising from a deeply red state government choosing to ignore or antagonize the democratic and majority-Black capital city. The Governor, of course a white man, was quoted in a speech in the midst of the water crisis as saying "as always, a great day to not be in Jackson." There trouble with the water system has gone on for months, acute since August, rearing up again in December. After a request for federal funds for repairs was granted, the state government finally decided that they wanted to be involved. Jackson residents currently have water (at least as of this writing), but their bills have doubled and quadrupled.

Government intervention now is similarly transparent. In the wake of rising crime, out of city legislators (far out of city, like, 170 miles) are proposing that the Capitol Police, who patrol around state-owned government buildings and around the downtown area, supplement Jackson's own police by expanding their range into more "affluent" areas, including some shopping districts and white neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, Capitol officers are connected with several incidents of violence, including the killing of a Black motorist during a traffic stop and another Black man killed in a crash during a police chase. The legislation that increases Capitol enforcement also calls for appointed judges, meant to deal with a "backlog" of cases.

At its heart, what this legislation does is strip away representation from the citizens of Jackson. The judges will have no accountability to residents, and the police have virtually no grounds for relationship with the community, which even in policing's limited efficacy is critical to the safety of residents. Jackson's existing police department is said to be underfunded and struggling. In this instance and this instance alone, one might be inclined to agree in the face of what amounts to an occupying police force.

The Takeaway

Given the history of Cop City as a response to the George Floyd uprising, the planned Cop City-like training center planned in Pittsburgh, and damn near every other news item you can find about the police, it's obvious that police reform ain't happening. Neither is any kind of defund movement making any headway. There is a vested interest in the media for a narrative of nail-biting crime waves, regardless of their veracity, and politicians are happy to respond to that false narrative by saying that they will bloat police budgets in a misguided and misleading attempt to keep people safe. The legislation in Jackson is one more angle on that; neglect a city until enough noise is made about crime to swoop in and crack down.

If that sounds a little worrisome to you, it should. With gerrymandering running unchecked and a likely GOP win coming in 2024, you should be concerned that your blue city is going to become an island, cut off from federal and state assistance because you still have Pride parades. And if that is familiar-ly worrying to you, thanks for having continued to read this newsletter since I wrote about the possibility of a cold civil war.

There is an active front in the fight against the unfettered growth of the police state, and that is Cop City. You can contribute to that fight by going there, by standing on the line, by attending rallies in solidarity across the nation, and by donating to the Forest Justice Defense Fund or the legal and bail support fund for forest defenders. For more information, see here. Standing against Cop City in Atlanta is a stand against it and the police everywhere.