A coalition of activists attempting to halt Atlanta’s Public Safety Training Center plan to take legal action against the city after what they describe as a blatant attempt to stonewall their petition for a voter referendum—including abruptly closing City Hall on Friday afternoon.
“We were giving the city clerk’s office the benefit of the doubt, but now it looks like they’re intentionally using delay tactics,” said Alex Joseph, the lead attorney with the Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition. Joseph says she will file a writ of “mandamus” on behalf of the group in Fulton County Superior Court on Wednesday. That’s a motion to ask a judge to compel the Municipal Clerk’s office to take action on their signature petition form, which was filed on June 7.
The form needs approval by the clerk before organizers can start collecting more than 70,000 signatures from Atlanta registered voters required to be gathered in 60 days as part of Georgia’s “home rule” law. Then the question of whether the city should cancel its lease agreement with the Atlanta Police Foundation to build “Cop City” can be added to municipal election ballots in November.
Approving the signature petition form is a run-of-the-mill request, says Joseph, and the clerk’s office was supposed to fulfill it within 7 days (Foris Webb retired as Municipal Clerk in April. Vanessa Waldon, the deputy clerk, is filling in as an interim). But on June 14, the clerk informed the Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition that it would be delayed for another week because of missing signature lines on the paper. The group resubmitted the document but as of Friday afternoon, Webb’s office has not yet approved it, nine days after it was first submitted.
Several volunteers with the coalition visited the clerk’s office on Friday morning to inquire about the status of their signature petition form.
According to Paul Glaze, a spokesperson for the group, Waldon told them: “I think we’ll try and get to that today—just come back later.” But when they returned at noon, however, they found that City Hall was closed for the day without notice. As of 3:30 p.m., all of City Hall’s doors were locked. A flier posted on the doors stated that the municipal clerk’s office had closed “due to the early release and closure for the Juneteenth Holiday.” But there is no mention of early City Hall closure on the city’s website or social media, only a same day email announcement distributed internally.
Waldon did not respond to Atlanta Civic Circle’s request for comment.
Activists opposing “Cop City” decried the delays on social media on Friday afternoon. On Twitter, journalist Micah Herskind described it as a form of voter suppression. “It looks a lot like what Democrats call voter suppression when Republicans do it,” he wrote.
Further delay of the petition would make it more difficult to get it on the November 7 ballot. If the coalition manages to obtain the required amount of more than 70,000 signatures—15% of registered voters, the city council has an additional 50 days to respond.