by Carlo Difundo
In the wake of the George Floyd murders, large corporations publicly expressed solidarity with the oppressed even as they privately funded massive police projects. America spends up to $100 billion each year to police its residents. Nevertheless, police foundations funnel even more money into the cops’ engorged budgets without any real oversight, approval, or accountability. These hidden slush funds allow corporate donors to encourage and direct policing in the procurement of weapons, armor, and surveillance technology, including “predictive policing” software that directs the cops where to insert their presence in the anticipation of future crime.
In 2017, Atlanta developed a network of almost 11,000 surveillance cameras and license plate readers. The project, “Operation Shield,” made Atlanta “the most heavily surveilled city in the United States.” The Atlanta Police Foundation is using the momentum gained in the completion of Operation Shield to propose a new “Cop City,” a facility to be built on 85 acres of “protected forest land,” and will provide “a mock village, an emergency vehicle driving course, firing range, and an area for explosives training.”
While the Atlanta Police Foundation’s corporate sponsors are pledging two-thirds of the $90 million bill, the taxpayers are being saddled with the remaining $30 million despite vocal opposition from diverse voices in the community. After watching the life of George Floyd drain out under the knee of an unsympathetic armed cop, Americans gasped in horror and took to the streets in protest. Atlanta’s police responded with a curfew and the national guard. Corporations in turn responded with virtue signaling – publicly declaring words of support for Black and Brown people. Yet, the words ring hollow as the corporations share their funds and executives with the Atlanta Police Foundation and related groups.
The United Parcel Service (“UPS”) has its headquarters in Atlanta and claims to be committed to “creating social impact, advocating diversity, equity and inclusion.” Additionally, “We will not stand quietly or idly on the sidelines of this issue,” says UPS Chief Executive Officer Carol Tomé. Despite those words of public support, UPS holds two seats on the Atlanta Police Foundation board. Is it at all surprising that Norman Brothers Jr., with the title of UPS Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, sits on one those seats.
Georgia State University, “a university for all,” hailed Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd as “a demonstration of our judicial system serving justice.” Meanwhile, it has refused to discontinue being “partners with international law enforcement agencies that restrict civil liberties, commit human rights violations, and/or promote bigotry, signaling an aggressive, militarized over-policing of Black and Brown communities,” according to a letter signed by 150 faculty members. Dr. Deepak Raglavan, a Georgia State University Adjutant Lecturer, serves on the Atlanta Police Foundation Executive Committee.
Home Depot Foundation, on the one hand, appears to invest in Black communities in partnership with the Westside Future Fund, building “affordable housing” and revitalizing parks; however, it also introduced the security patrol program “Westside Blue,” a partnership with the Atlanta Police Foundation and the Atlanta Police Department. It’s not surprising then that Home Depot serves on the board of the Atlanta Police Foundation and the Detroit Public safety Foundation.
Nor is Chic-fil-A an unexpected member of this group. Given its open right-of-center politics and police discounts, it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that the Lead Advisor to the chicken shop’s Chairman and CEO serves on the Atlanta Police Foundation’s Young Executive Board or that the Atlanta Police Foundation partners with the poultry purveyor’s foundation to “build – and execute – a plan for a safer Atlanta.”
Despite their statements of solidarity with Black and Brown citizens in their desire to erase racism and build equity and inclusion, these corporations – just a few examples of the more than 1,400 working with 22 police foundations across the U.S. that were catalogued by LittleSis and Color of Change – show us a continued interest in investing in the tools of racial injustice and unregulated and unaccountable policing. Construction of Cop City in the nation’s most surveilled city continues but so does the fight against militarization of the police, carceral punishment, and increased policing. One protestor noted, “I didn’t ever think I’d see a movement where doctors, preschoolers and their parents, anarchists, and City Council people were all rallying together.”
Source: Meet the Major Corporations and Cultural Institutions Helping Build Cop City in Atlanta
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