UNITED STATES NEWS

Judge blames Atlanta officials for confusion over ‘Stop Cop City’ referendum campaign

Sep 13, 2023, 11:37 AM

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge overseeing the case involving Atlanta activists’ referendum effort against a police and firefighter training facility accused city officials on Wednesday of moving the goalposts on the signature-gathering campaign, saying they have “directly contributed” to a widespread sense of confusion over the matter.

U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen ruled that he does not have the authority to force the city of Atlanta to begin processing the tens of thousands of signatures that were handed in Monday by “Stop Cop City” activists, explaining that he cannot intervene while a larger dispute over the effort is awaiting input from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But Cohen also said he was “compelled to comment upon the vacillating positions of the City of Atlanta throughout this litigation.”

“On June 21, 2023, instead of approving a referendum petition it had no intention to honor regardless of the number of signatures obtained from City residents, the City could have taken the position it later espoused in this lawsuit and disapproved the petition as unauthorized under Georgia law,” Cohen wrote.

The judge continued: “The City instead opted to approve a petition for a referendum it believed and later contended was illegal. A proverb dating back over four centuries ago once again applies here: Honesty is the Best Policy.”

Over the past three months, hundreds of activists spread out across the city to gather what they said were more than 116,000 signatures of registered Atlanta voters, far more than necessary to force a vote on the proposed training facility that has outraged environmentalists and anti-police protesters across the country.

But activists who arrived at City Hall on Monday carrying boxes full of signed petitions were shocked when Atlanta officials told them the clerk was legally barred from beginning the process of verifying the forms, saying organizers had missed an Aug. 21 deadline. The deadline had been previously extended until September by Cohen, but the 11th Circuit on Sept. 1 paused the enforcement of that order, throwing the effort into legal limbo.

Organizers responded by asking Cohen to intervene, but the judge denied the emergency motion, ruling that he cannot step in while the matter is in front of the appellate court, though he conceded that the appellate court’s recent recent pause “leaves both Plaintiffs, the (Cop City Vote) Coalition, and the City in a quandary.”

Atlanta Mayor Dickens and others say the $90 million facility would replace inadequate training facilities, and would help address difficulties in hiring and retaining police officers that worsened after the nationwide 2020 protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Opponents, however, say they fear it will lead to greater militarization of the police and that its construction will exacerbate environmental damage in a poor, majority-Black area.

Organizers have modeled the referendum campaign after a successful effort in coastal Georgia, where Camden County residents voted overwhelmingly last year to block county officials from building a launchpad for blasting commercial rockets into space.

The Georgia Supreme Court in February unanimously upheld the legality of the Camden County referendum, though it remains an open question whether citizens can veto decisions of city governments. Atlanta officials have called the petition drive “futile” and “invalid,” arguing that the City Council’s 2021 decision to lease the land to the Atlanta Police Foundation cannot be overturned via a referendum.

United States News

Associated Press

US House Judiciary Committee chair seeks details from ATF on airport director shooting

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Monday asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to provide documents and information about its raid at the home last month of the Little Rock airport director who was died after a shootout with agents serving a search warrant. […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

Minnesota state senator arrested on suspicion of burglary

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A state senator and former broadcast meteorologist was arrested on suspicion of burglary early Monday in the northwestern Minnesota city of Detroit Lakes, police said. Democratic Sen. Nicole Mitchell, 49, of Woodbury, was being held in the Becker County Jail on suspicion of first-degree burglary. Formal charges were still pending Monday afternoon, […]

41 minutes ago

Associated Press

A Washington police officer killed 3 people in 8 years — and faces a murder trial for the last one

SEATTLE (AP) — Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a suburban Seattle police officer charged with murder in the death of a 26-year-old man outside a convenience store in 2019 — the third person the officer had killed in the past eight years. Auburn officer Jeff Nelson shot and killed Jesse Sarey while […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

William Strickland, a longtime civil rights activist, scholar and friend of Malcom X, has died

BOSTON (AP) — William Strickland, a longtime civil rights activist and supporter of the Black Power movement who worked with Malcom X and other prominent leaders in the 1960s, has died. He was 87. Strickland, whose death April 10 was confirmed by a relative, first became active in civil rights as a high schooler in […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Insider Q&A: Trust and safety exec talks about AI and content moderation

Alex Popken was a longtime trust and safety executive at Twitter focusing on content moderation before leaving in 2023. She was the first employee there dedicated to moderating Twitter’s advertising business when she started in 2013. Now, she’s vice president of trust and safety at WebPurify, a content moderation service provider that works with businesses […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawsuit alleges negligence in hiring of maintenance man accused of torturing resident

BALTIMORE (AP) — April Hurley’s attacker entered her apartment after identifying himself as the building maintenance man — a job he should never have obtained, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that accuses the property owner and management company of engaging in negligent hiring practices. Once inside the apartment, Jason Billingsley tortured Hurley and her […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

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.

Judge blames Atlanta officials for confusion over ‘Stop Cop City’ referendum campaign