Emory students protest ‘Cop City’ and make demands

Students from Emory University walked out of class and held a protest in Emory’s quad to kick off a day of student-led protests condemning the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center being built on City of Atlanta-owned property in south DeKalb.

The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center development, dubbed Cop City, is a proposed regional first responder training center on 85 acres of land known as the Old Atlanta Prison Farms. Protestors have argued that the land has a racial history stemming from being in both a historically Black area and on “stolen Muskogee land.” Proponents of the training center point to Atlanta’s police and fire departments’ degraded facilities.

Protests reached a boiling point in recent months following the shooting death of protestor Manuel Paez Teran at the hands of Georgia State Patrol officers.

Officers who were at the scene when Teran was shot, said Terran fired first. Investigations have yet to confirm the details of the shooting death, but a recent autopsy report concluded that Teran was shot at least 50 times. Protesters claim that Terran was sitting cross legged with his hands in the air at the time of the shooting.

Student protesters at Emory University filled the quad greenspace on April 24 to protest Teran’s death and the proposed development of the training facility. Students chanted, gave speeches, played music, and gave specific demands to any administrators in attendance. Protest organizers said more than 100 students attended.

Students protesting at Emory University. Photos by Jay Phillips

According to protest organizer and Emory student Jaanaki Radhakrishnan, Emory University officials should condemn the development based on the university’s mission statement and promises made.

“The development of a highly militarized police facility on stolen Muskogee land in the middle of already hyper-marginalized Black community is an active contradiction of the principals of racial justice and reconciliation that this university claims to hold in such high regard,” said Radhakrishnan. “In our university’s [land acknowledgment statement] … it is stated that Emory University seeks to honor the Muskogee nation and other indigenous care takers of this land by humbly seeking knowledge of their histories and committing to respectful stewardship of this land.”

After pointing out what she called contradictions in Emory’s principals, Radhakrishnan called for the president of Emory University to resign his position on the Atlanta Committee for Progress.

“We’d like to give Emory University an opportunity to demonstrate [its principals],” she added.

“University president Gregory Fenves currently holds a seat on the Atlanta Committee for Progress, which has shown extensive support for Cop City – even holding fundraising events. President Fenves, step down from the ACP and condemn the development of Cop City.”

“This institution—with its extensive ties to the Atlanta community and its monetary and social influence—must honor its commitment to racial justice and the Muskogee people. Emory, come out and condemn cop city,” said Radhakrishnan.

Radhakrishnan emphasized that Emory has an $11 billion endowment and is one of the largest employers of Georgians. “I think Emory stepping up would absolutely make a difference.”

“We’re all out here today to let the university know what’s good. We as the students make this university what it is, and we are saying that this is not who we are … We certainly do not believe in perpetuating the same system of destruction and oppression that have been slaughtering our planet and our people since long before we were born,” said Radhakrishnan.

Students from Emory University were part of an area-wide movement of university students protesting the development on April 24. Students from Agnes Scott College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University also held protests on their campuses, according to protest organizers.

The presidents of Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Spelman, Morehouse, and Clark Atlanta also hold positions on the Atlanta Committee for Progress board.

“Each university is in control of their own actions, but we’re all coming together today. We’re already thinking about what this movement is going to look like over the summer. We don’t plan on stopping until cop city stops,” said Radhakrishnan.

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