Activists furious Democratic leaders haven’t denounced plan to check every ‘Stop Cop City’ signature

Aug 25, 2023, 12:01 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia activists against a proposed police and firefighting training center have called on Democratic senators to denounce Atlanta’s plan to check every signature on a petition to put the issue to voters.

A “line-by-line review” would ensure the signatures match what officials have on file, said officials in the Democratic-led city, drawing praise from the head of the Georgia Republican Party, condemnation from voting rights groups, but silence from the state’s Democratic senators, who for years have railed against GOP-imposed voter restrictions.

That silence has enraged “Stop Cop City” activists, who say they’ve collected more than 100,000 signatures. They warned Georgia’s Democratic Party that it is turning its back on some of its most engaged members — people who knocked on doors to help Joe Biden narrowly win the battleground state in 2020 and will be asked to do the same thing next year.

“It’s just been crickets,” said Amelia Weltner, a 34-year-old DeKalb County resident who has organized, canvassed and worked as a staffer for Democrats. “Since it’s not Republicans doing the suppression, I guess it’s not as high of a concern?”

This summer, Weltner said she has collected about 75 signatures, even canvassing outside a Beyoncé concert to put a halt to the $90 million, 85-acre project that has become a national rallying cry for environmentalists and anti-police protesters. But Weltner doubts she’ll be motivated to canvass for Democrats who stood silent on an issue that’s so important to her.

“The biggest question I’m going to be asking is, ‘When we needed them. Where were they?’” Weltner said. “DeKalb County and Fulton County are Georgia’s blue wall — they need our votes.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Jon Ossoff declined to comment and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, state Democratic Party chair, called for a “transparent process” in a Thursday statement three days after the city revealed its signature plan. She also denounced a type of signature matching that city officials have said they will not use.

The mayor has no involvement in how the city councilmembers and the clerk’s office determine the forms should be examined, a Dickens spokesperson said.

Tossing a petition based upon an inconsistent signature is a “widely discredited tool of voter suppression,” voting advocates say.

“That the city of Atlanta would use such a subjective and unreliable process is shameful and undermines the integrity of the city’s validation procedure,” more than two dozen voting rights organizations, including Fair Fight, wrote to city officials.

Opponents fear that the training center will lead to greater militarization of the police and exacerbate environmental damage in the South River Forest in a poor, predominantly Black area.

Officials counter that the campus would replace outdated, far-flung facilities and boost police morale, which is beset by hiring and retention struggles.

Organizers have until Sept. 23 to turn in about 58,000 valid signatures — the equivalent of 15% of registered voters as of the last city election. They are working to gather more to leave no doubt that voters want to decide.

Councilmembers have approved $67 million for the training center, despite huge protests inside City Hall. The referendum would seek to cancel the Council-endorsed lease agreement for the project.

But even if the referendum is approved by the clerk’s office and survives an ongoing legal challenge, a lengthy review process will likely mean it won’t appear on a ballot until March.

City officials say that once the signatures are turned in, at least two reviewers will examine questionable signatures. People whose signatures can’t be verified will be mailed a notice and called so they can prove they signed, officials said.

State Republican Party Chairman Josh McKoon said on social media, “Kudos to Mayor Dickens and the Atlanta City Council for insisting on a fair elections process by using robust Voter ID measures!”

But Democratic state Rep. Saira Draper, whose district includes the proposed site, took to social media this week to denounce the signature-matching plan, saying, “Atlanta, the cradle of the civil rights moment, must hold itself to a higher standard when it comes to voting rights.” Draper has declined to publicly take a position on the project itself.

Voters’ official signatures are often carelessly scrawled with a stylus on a digital tablet while getting a driver’s license, Draper said. When she worked in voter protection with state Democrats, “signature match was always something that we disagreed with and we fought against,” Draper told The Associated Press.

It’s doubtful a significant number of signatures were forged because they are easily traced by personal information given on each form, Draper said.

On the lack of outcry from Warnock and Ossoff, Draper said she understood the activists’ frustration as well as “the position that being a federally elected official in a very purple state puts you in.”

United States News

FILE - Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Sept. 20, 2023, ...

Associated Press

They’re a path to becoming governor, but attorney general jobs are now a destination, too

Instead of trying to keep their seats in Congress, two North Carolina politicians are vying for a high-profile office closer to home: state attorney general. The career path that Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jeff Jackson are trying to follow was once a rarity but has become more common across the […]

20 minutes ago

This image provided by the Idaho Department of Correction shows Thomas Eugene Creech on Jan. 9, 200...

Associated Press

Idaho set to execute Thomas Eugene Creech, one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the US

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The hour of Thomas Eugene Creech’s death has been set, and it is rapidly approaching. On Wednesday morning Idaho prison officials will ask the 73-year-old if he would like a mild sedative to help calm him before his execution at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise. Then, at 10 […]

1 hour ago

FILE - A bump stock is displayed in Harrisonburg, Va., on March 15, 2019. The Supreme Court will he...

Associated Press

Supreme Court to hear challenge to bump stock ban in high court’s latest gun case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear a challenge to a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, a gun accessory used in a Las Vegas massacre that was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. A Texas gun shop owner argues the Trump administration didn’t follow federal law when it reversed course […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, speaks during a news conference outside the Capito...

Associated Press

Hunter Biden to appear for closed-door interview with Republicans conducting impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hunter Biden is set to appear Wednesday on Capitol Hill for a closed-door deposition with lawmakers, a critical moment for Republicans as their impeachment inquiry into his father and their family’s business affairs teeters on the brink of collapse. The deposition will mark a decisive point for the 14-month Republican investigation into […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

1 person injured when Hawaii tour helicopter crashes on remote Kauai beach

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — One person was injured when a tour helicopter crashed on a remote beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the county fire department said Tuesday. An aircraft operated by Jack Harter Helicopters crashed at Honopu Beach on the Napali Coast, a rugged stretch of Kauai that is only accessible by hiking, […]

3 hours ago

Defendant Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, former armorer on the set of the movie "Rust", walks back to her s...

Associated Press

Expert in Old West firearms says gun wouldn’t malfunction in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Courtroom testimony by an independent gun expert Tuesday cast new doubt on Alec Baldwin’s account that his gun went off without pulling the trigger in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer during a 2021 rehearsal on the set of the Western movie “Rust.” Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to involuntary […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Activists furious Democratic leaders haven’t denounced plan to check every ‘Stop Cop City’ signature