A defiant Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms kicked off a press conference about the approval of a controversial police and fire training facility – nicknamed “Cop City” by opponents – with a message to protestors who showed up outside the homes of Atlanta City Council members during last night’s vote.

“This was disturbing on many levels,” Bottoms said. “If I get bad service at Dunkin’ Donuts, I don’t show up at your house yelling and berating. When you bully me, try to terrorize me, it’s the end of the conversation. I’m going to assume that’s the same feeling with the men and women of the council and APD. You call and comment, but you don’t show up at people’s houses. You’re going to lose the conversation at that point.”

Atlanta Police made a number of arrests of protestors outside Councilmember Natalyn Archibong’s home during last night’s vote on the facility. The vote came after 17 hours of public comment in which 70 percent of the callers were in opposition to the project.

Still, the council approved a ground lease for the 85-acre, city-owned property off Key Road in DeKalb County. The $90 million facility will be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, which has pledged to transform the remaining 260 acres into a public greenspace and urban forest.

“Let’s have a civil conversation,” Bottoms said on a more conciliatory note. “We’re not taking the entire parcel. We’re using 85 acres. There’s still going to be an urban forest. This is the beginning of a very long conversation.”

The city had previously earmarked the property for use as greenspace, but Bottoms maintained it was the only suitable property for the training facility.

“This location was envisioned in another way, but as we’ve had to readjust,” she said. “We’ll make sure the community and environmental organizations are involved. It’s not a pretty process, but it wasn’t pretty when we were building Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Turner Field or Westside Park, but the outcome of those developments have been satisfying to the community.”

Asked why she didn’t postpone a decision until a new administration comes into office in January, Bottoms said she wanted to lay the groundwork. “The new mayor will come in and put their fingerprint on it, but this is something that can’t wait,” she said. “I’m not going to put that burden on a new mayor.”

Dave Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation, was delighted with the city council vote. “What a great day in the City of Atlanta. It’s the most important security measure that we could introduce in our generation,” he said. “It will make our city safe for the next 50 years.”

Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said the city approval was an immediate boost to the morale of his department. “It gives us encouragement that the citizens take public safety seriously. We’re not just addressing something today, but for years to come. The vote last night has transformed public safety in our city. What the council did last night puts us in a much better space.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.