“We are occupying Emory University to demand immediate divestment from Israel and Cop City”

Image from the protest encampment at Emory University in Atlanta, where protesters are demanding an end to the genocide in Gaza and immediate divestment from Israel & “Cop City.” The Emory encampment joins a wave of other university encampments across the U.S. Photo credit: Emory SCC.

Narek Boyajian is a queer Armenian American community organizer, student, and educator based in Atlanta, GA. They are committed to abolitionist, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist movement work.

Jadelynn Zhang is a Midwesterner now based in Atlanta, GA. She is a writer, researcher, educator, and organizer for abolitionist and grassroots liberation movements.

In Gaza and the West Bank, over 34,000 Palestinians have been murdered since the siege began on October 7, 2023. For over 75 years, the Palestinian people have been subjected to the illegal Zionist settler colonialism and white supremacy funded by Western Powers. The violence of the Israeli regime goes beyond denying Palestinian livelihood, making it its mission to sever Palestinians from their communities, land, and history. Halfway across the world, in the heart of Atlanta, a battle rages against the encroachment of Cop City, a sprawling police training facility slated to be erected in the Weelaunee Forest. This biodiverse site, designated as one of the “four lungs” of Atlanta, was stewarded by indigenous Muscogee and Cherokee peoples before it became a slave plantation and subsequently the Atlanta prison farm. Despite years of struggle to defend the forest and stop the Cop City project from moving forward, the relentless expansion of the prison industrial complex (PIC) under the guise of “public safety” ensues.

We are students across multiple Atlanta universities and community members organizing against Cop City and the genocide of Palestinians at the hands of U.S. imperialism. We are demanding total institutional divestment from Israeli apartheid and Cop City at all Atlanta colleges and universities. We are occupying Emory, not because it is the only institution that is complicit in genocide and police militarization, but because its ties are some of the strongest. Emory University, the Atlanta University Center Consortium, Georgia State University, and Georgia Tech have all intimidated and repressed students and employees who spoke out in support of Palestinians. These institutions have all refused to divest from Cop City and the Zionist occupation.

This local resistance is a vivid tableau of a global struggle for liberation. At its core, the fight against Cop City is interconnected with global movements against oppressive state practices, most notably the Palestinian struggle for liberation from illegal occupation, apartheid, and systemic violence. The parallels extend deeper into the mechanisms of oppression, where the tactics employed to suppress dissent in Atlanta echo those used globally, facilitated by significant international collaboration in policing and surveillance.

The roots of Cop City can be traced to the Israeli Urban Warfare Training Center (UWTC), nicknamed “Mini Gaza,” funded with $45 million from the U.S. These training centers are more than mere facilities; they are live testing grounds for strategies deployed against marginalized peoples, whether in occupied Palestine or predominantly Black, working-class, and undocumented communities in Atlanta. The design of these centers reflects a brutal exchange of methodologies that exacerbate violence against oppressed populations to expand and maintain power and domination through any means necessary.

Georgia State University (GSU) plays a significant role in these exchanges through its Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program. For over three decades, GILEE has facilitated collaboration between U.S. and Israeli police forces, fostering the dissemination of tactics used to maintain control and suppress dissent. This program is not an isolated academic endeavor but a cog in a larger machine that reinforces global structures of oppression. The technologies and strategies exchanged have manifested devastatingly in the U.S., from the knee-on-neck tactic used in the murder of George Floyd to the militarized policing seen during the protests that followed.

Further implicating the role of domestic policy in global suppression, the United States funds and supports various forms of state violence beyond its borders, such as in Sudan, Artsakh, and Palestine. These actions are not merely foreign policy but are deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. domestic governance. They represent a pervasive approach to international relations that prioritizes domination and control, extending the reach of the U.S. imperial and carceral state globally.

The involvement of local universities, non-profits, corporations, and government with Cop City through its support of the Atlanta Police Foundation and its integration into the city’s surveillance and security expansion paints a stark picture of institutional complicity in these structures of power.

As Atlanta students and community members, we echo the growing national calls for immediate divestment from Israel and, by extension, Cop City, which are death-dealing partnerships profiting off of genocide, occupation, and police terror. We stand in solidarity with all students and university employees who have risen up to challenge the oppressive status quo and disrupt genocide economies, from Columbia University to Vanderbilt University.

The solidarity between the Stop Cop City movement and Palestinian liberation movements is profound and instructive. It is a solidarity based not only on shared symbols but on a deep, systemic understanding of how local struggles are inextricably linked to global ones. The fight against Cop City and for Palestinian liberation are both frontiers in the same struggle against the mechanisms of state-sanctioned violence and repression.

As residents of Atlanta and participants in this global community, our challenge is to recognize these connections and mobilize. This involves not only resisting specific projects like Cop City but also advocating for a transformation in how our institutions—be they educational, political, or social—invest in community safety and our humanity. Our shared struggle for dignity, justice, and the right to live free from state violence is international, and it is only through collective resistance and solidarity that these oppressive structures can be dismantled.

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