Opponents of Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’ sue after clerk rejects referendum petition

Mary Hooks, of the Cop City Vote coalition, said the clerk's refusal validated the group's belief that Atlanta wants to thwart the referendum effort and continue silencing the people's voice.

Opponents of Atlanta’s “Cop City” have filed a lawsuit following the municipal clerk’s second rejection of a referendum petition.

The Cop City Vote coalition said interim city clerk Vanessa Waldon has once again rejected a petition for a potential vote on the city’s proposed public safety training. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the opponents are now taking legal action, requesting that a Fulton County judge compel her to accept the initial petition due to a delay in the approval procedure.

“We regret that the City has made litigation necessary,” said Kurt Kastorf, legal counsel for the Cop City Vote coalition, AJC reported. “However, there is still a path forward for the City if the clerk promptly approves our revised language directly addressing their latest concerns. Doing so would best respect the boundaries of their role within this process.”

Cop City Vote coalition referendum
Opponents of Atlanta’s “Cop City” protest. Organizers said the city clerk has again rejected a petition seeking a vote on the city’s proposed public safety training site. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/Scripps News)

Mary Hooks, a lead organizer with the coalition, said the clerk’s refusal validated the group’s belief that the city of Atlanta wants to thwart the referendum effort and continue its long pattern of silencing the people’s voice using all methods.

“If these concerns were genuine,” Hooks added, “the clerk would have raised them in their first response or in any of the many communications we have had with her office.”

The organization claimed that the clerk gave three explanations for denying the petition; two relied on items not truly necessary by law, and one about the inclusion of a single word.

Mariah Parker, who initially filed the petition, said in a statement that the group only wants the clerk to approve the petition form — nothing more or less than what is required by law.

The group said the city clerk broke a seven-day deadline for approving the petition, submitted on June 7. The clerk initially turned down the petition on June 14 because it needed a line requiring Atlanta residents to verify each signature.

The organization revised the petition and added the line. However, court filings reportedly indicate that it was the municipal clerk’s duty, not the petitioners’, to add the missing line per Georgia law.

The group nonetheless filed the form again. Court records state that the petitioners received the clerk’s assurance on Friday that someone would review the resubmitted petition before the end of the day. However, Waldon closed the office at noon on the Friday before Juneteenth.

The group anticipates a swift approval following numerous delays and plans to resubmit an updated petition to the clerk’s office soon.

Its leaders also said organizers should get an extension of the time allotted for collecting more than 70,000 valid signatures needed for the referendum to appear on the November ballot. They would like an additional day for each day the clearance is delayed. After obtaining the signatures, the city council will have 50 days to evaluate whether the petition is legitimate.

During a conversation regarding the petition, the office of Mayor Andre Dickens noted that it has no role in the petition’s approval procedure and that the municipal clerk does not belong to the executive branch. 

In a statement on June 7, a representative for the mayor emphasized that the administration respects the right to free speech and the referendum’s procedure.

“We firmly believe that our residents deserve well-trained first responders who have access to adequate training facilities,” the statement read, AJC reported. “We will continue to share our view that the PSTC and the more than 300 acres of green space are the right approach to ensuring Atlanta will be a national model for public safety.”

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!