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Construction permit to be issued that will allow police training facility at center of protests to move forward

A press conference with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond was held Tuesday.

ATLANTA — UPDATE: Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced Tuesday an agreement was in place to allow for the construction permit to be issued in the building of the much-contested Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, which has been the subject of a yearlong protest movement known as "Stop Cop City."

Chief of Police Darin Schierbaum also noted that the protesters who have been living at the site for several months have been cleared out.

According to the officials, the agreement came after an 11-month review by DeKalb County engineers and environmental authorities. 

According to a timeline of the review process issued by DeKalb County, the construction permit can be issued, essentially, after several construction guidelines are established.

The document laid our two requirements:

  • "Planning inspectors will meet with the Applicant or their representatives on site to discuss installation of BMPs (Best Management Practices) and what is expected on the site pursuant to the (land disturbance permit)."
  • "After the Applicant installs the initial BMPs, Planning inspectors will revisit the site to perform an initial on-site environmental inspection to ensure that all required BMPs are in place and operation."

After an initial on-site environmental inspection and the guidelines are approved, "land disturbance activities may commence."

Officials said the agreement would contain several provisions for preserving parts of the South River Forest, which has been occupied for more than a year by protesters in tree encampments seeking to stop the building of the facility.

Dickens and Thurmond said the facility will total 85 acres, which was previously known, with the rest of a roughly 380-acre parcel of the forest owned by the City of Atlanta set for preservation. That was also previously promised by officials involved with the project, though some details emerged in Tuesday's press conference - with Dickens promising trails, park lands and ball fields, in particular.

DeKalb County and Atlanta released a Memorandum of Understanding for the building of the site, containing a 10-point plan for neighborhood improvements and protections and a 4-point plan for environmental protections at the South River Forest.

Among the environmental commitments are one to devote 30 acres of the 85-acre complex to greenspace, parklands and trails. Others include building 100 hardwood trees for every "specimen tree impacted by construction" as well as "one specimen tree for any invasive species tree that was removed" and a provision for "double erosion control" for Intrenchment Creek. 

The announcement was met by the protest movement with a demonstration outside Atlanta City Hall against the agreement.

Describing police training reforms he had supported as a councilmember and framing it as an answer to reform demands from 2020 racial and criminal justice protests, Dickens said: "This training needs space and that's exactly what this training center is going to offer."

DeKalb CEO Thurmond described the process for agreeing to the MOU and issuing the land disturbance permit as a long one where the county's permitting authorities "went through by analyzing the application submitted to us and making sure that we protect the adjacent landowners as well as the South River Forest."

He described the decision to agree to the land development plan as an "objective, professional assessment of the information that was provided to us."

See the memorandum of understanding between Atlanta and DeKalb County for the building of the facility:

See the timeline for the land disturbance permit review process of DeKalb County:

Original story: 

Officials from the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County on Tuesday afternoon are planning an announcement related to the future of the much-contested Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, which has been met with a yearlong protest movement known as "Stop Cop City."

The opposition movement reached a peak two weekends ago with demonstrations through downtown Atlanta that left a police vehicle burned out and several buildings damaged, one of them targeted for housing the Atlanta Police Foundation. 

The protests followed shootings at the site that resulted in the death of an activist, Manuel Teran - also known as Tortuguita - and the injury of an unnamed Georgia State Patrol trooper. 

The GBI has alleged that Tortuguita fired a shot at the trooper and was killed in return fire by troopers, a narrative that the protest movement has disputed. In particular, the lack of bodycam video - which GSP troopers do not wear - has become a point of contention in fleshing out what exactly happened. 

The Atlanta Police Foundation is the primary funder of the facility, which would be built on the Old Prison Farm site in south DeKalb under a lease agreement with the City of Atlanta. The opposition movement has occupied the forest in encampments to stop its building for more than a year.

A release from DeKalb County said the press conference will "announce protection and enhancement of the environment and local economy as part of planned Public Safety Training Center."

The press conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Atlanta City Hall. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond will make remarks.

The release added that the two public officials will announce an "agreement to ensure the planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center will protect and enhance the surrounding environment, spur local business and job development and serve as a community resource."

Any details on that agreement - and if they had any support from the "Stop Cop City" protest movement - was not immediately clear.

You can stream the press conference live here and on all our 11Alive platforms.



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