Coalition to Stop Cop City spokesperson and local activist Mary Hooks (center) and Coalition to Stop Cop City attorney Kurt Kastorf (right) speak to the media inside the clerk’s office at Atlanta City Hall Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

Coalition to Stop Cop City spokesperson Mary Hooks and the organization’s lawyer Kurt Kastorf walked out of a meeting with Atlanta City Council at 1 p.m. Monday. The look on Kastorf’s face said everything about the meeting they just had.

The City of Atlanta and the Coalition to Stop Cop City remain at an impasse.

“Their position is insincere,” said Kastorf of the council’s decision to not verify the boxes of signed petitions, 16 in all, that the coalition brought to City Hall. Kastorf and Hooks were there to represent thousands of citizens that opposed the building of a public safety training facility, and the dozens of people that were packed onto the building’s second floor since early that morning.

“It’s clear that the City of Atlanta is doing everything that they can to stop this process,” said Kastorf. Asked if the people supporting the stop cop city movement should remain vigilant following this latest setback, Kastorf said they should. “The fact that they are so terrified now is a big reason to see hope.”

Hooks agrees, “Our people should still feel hopeful. Folks should continue to invest in hope. When it’s all said and done that’s all we have to stand on.”

Over 110,000 signatures had been collected and submitted in an effort to seek a referendum on the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, otherwise known as Cop City.

“Today, organizers submitted the referendum petition to put Atlanta’s public safety training facility on the ballot,” said Atlanta City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari in a statement distributed to the public. “Throughout the debate over this facility, the city has asked that the public protest through democratic methods.”

She continued, “The people listened, mobilized, and succeeded in submitting approximately 115,000 signatures. This is history in the making-and I must ask, which side of history do we want to be on?”

The boxes of signed petitions are locked in a secure location inside the clerk’s office, according to both Hooks, who was an eyewitness, and Clerk Emeritus of the City of Atlanta Foris Webb III, who distributed a statement on behalf of the City of Atlanta.

21 days late

In that statement Webb acknowledged the receipt of the petitions, but said they were submitted too late to be accepted. There is a 60-day deadline from the time the petitions were obtained by the municipal clerk. That deadline was August 21, according to Webb.

“Today, September 11, is 81 days after the date the sponsor of the petition first obtained copies of the petition from the municipal clerk, so the City is prohibited by state law from accepting the petition for verification, absent further guidance from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Kastorf said the coalition will take the additional legal steps to get the petitions through the door. “We are going to go to district court,” he said. “We really shouldn’t be doing that.”

This impromptu press conference took place minutes before a regularly scheduled public safety and legal administration committee meeting began at 1 p.m. Items on the agenda were as mundane as property damage sustained due to the result of an automobile accident on Campbellton Road, SW in October 2022 to a slip and fall that took place at 6000 N. Terminal Parkway in June.

There was no mention of Cop City on the agenda.

“If we cannot find justice in the courts, in the systems and all of things, then we are going to take it in the streets,” said Hooks. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...