It is easy to trick ourselves into believing that we are somehow separate from one another, or that the neighborhood, city, or region we live in is somehow separate from someplace else. Colonial culture lends itself to this alienated existence—by naming what is outside of our immediate sphere “elsewhere,” it becomes possible for us to forget: everything and everyone is inextricably linked.
Certain things remind us of our interconnectedness: the pandemic showed us that viruses do not pay attention to border walls; when forest fires burn, the wind carries smoke and causes fog hundreds of miles away; and when trains derail and spill chemicals into our water and air, there is no telling exactly how far the detrimental effects will be felt.
Solidarity is about recognizing our fundamental interdependency, and leveraging it as collective power. Because none of us are free until all of us are free.
The proposal to build Cop City in Atlanta, GA is frightening for many reasons, and like a virus or a plume of death billowing into the sky, it will affect us all.
For those who don’t know, the City of Atlanta has leased 381 acres of Weelaunee Forest to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), which will be destroyed for the construction of a militarized police training facility. At the price of 90 million dollars, it includes a mock city to practice urban warfare, sites for tear gas and explosives testing, dozens of shooting ranges, and a Black Hawk helicopter landing pad. Cop City is a project already entrenched in murderous violence: on January 18, 2023, the Georgia State Police raided the forest and killed a forest defender and friend, Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran. The struggle continues in their name.
Cop City is a direct response to the 2020 uprisings, which were sparked by the tragic police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. During those uprisings, common grief and rage against racial capitalism could not be contained or destroyed, and spread worldwide. It was a glimpse of how powerful people could become when they took to the streets, enacted mutual aid, and kept each other safe rather than relying on the police state.
According to the APF, 40% of police who train at the proposed Cop City facility will come from elsewhere–that means this is not a local issue. It will have real reverberations around the country, and will advance the precedent for militarized policing globally. Pittsburgh, PA is not immune to this trend. Over the last few years, there have been talks on City Council about building a similar campus for police training in Pittsburgh. If Cop City gets built in Atlanta, we can assume it is only a matter of time before the project will be replicated in our hometown.
Pittsburgh, like many cities throughout the country, is being gentrified. The current housing crisis has caused a spike in the rate of houselessness. Though touted as the “Most Livable City” in mainstream media, studies have shown that for Black women, Pittsburgh is one of the most unlivable places in the country, with lower life expectancies, higher maternal mortality rates, and egregious discrepancies in overall health between Black and white residents.
The City of Pittsburgh continues to welcome in developers who aim to transform the town into a hub for technological innovation, namely in the sphere of weapons-manufacturing, thanks to a number of engineering programs at Carnegie Mellon University that work closely with the United States Air Force. Meanwhile, a lack of affordable housing, environmental racism, food apartheid, cuts to public transit and education, and endemic racism is displacing Black Pittsburghers to areas outside of the city at an alarming rate.
There also happens to be a neighborhood in Atlanta, GA called “Pittsburgh.” Right now, the APF–the same slush fund planning Cop City–wants to build five houses for Atlanta Police Department (APD) officers in Pittsburgh, ATL, which is a historically Black neighborhood, in the midst of this housing crisis. A local group, the Community Movement Builders (CMB)–“a member-based collective of black people creating sustainable, self-determining communities”–is demanding that these houses be given to Black legacy community members instead. CMB reminds us that increased police presence means more surveillance and criminalization of poor Black and Brown residents, and is a way to make wealthier, whiter people feel protected as they move in and displace long-time inhabitants of gentrified neighborhoods.
Plain and simple: police help advance gentrification, and are needed to enforce racial capitalism. Regardless of the race and gender of the officer, police are the violent arm of the state in charge of suppressing the will of the people so that decisions can continue to be made in the favor of capital expansion.
From Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh, we must resist gentrification, end policing, and invest in housing, healthcare, public transit, and education for our communities. We must #StopCopCityEverywhere, because we cannot allow the state and the corporations it protects to dispossess us of every freedom, to cut down every tree, to desecrate every burial ground, to imprison every dissident, and to kill every spirit.
Instead, we know that we keep us safe. In the beloved communities we are building, we sing songs, we climb trees, we make art, we have long and hard discussions about how to prevent violence, we leave nobody behind, we learn our histories, we laugh ungovernably, we mourn the dead for as long as we need to, and we fight with all our might for the living and their children. In the beloved communities we are building, we have already won. Because our joy and our vision of liberation is something that the death machine of capitalism does not have, and can never take away.
Pittsburgh, please join us in acting in solidarity with everyone in Atlanta to Stop Cop City! Sign on to this statement, donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, and visit https://www.stopcopcitysolidarity.org/ to find out more ways that you can contribute to the movement.
Until we all are free,
Weelaunee Defense Society of Pittsburgh
Abolitionist Law Center
Abortion Defense Committee
Black Liberation Autonomous Collective
Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America
Food Not Bombs
Fossil Free Pitt Coalition
Jewish Voice for Peace Pittsburgh
Let’s Get Free
National Lawyers Guild
Pittsburgh Labor Choir
Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid
Pittsburgh Union of Regional Renters
Ratzon Center for Healing and Resistance