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Over 50 clinical counseling students and faculty author open letter in solidarity with Forest Defenders

Submission received via email
February 24, 2023

We Oppose Cop City and Stand in Solidarity with the Forest Defenders in Atlanta

As Antioch University Clinical Mental Health Counseling professors and students dedicated to community mental health, we join Emory healthcare professionals and Morehouse College faculty members in denouncing The Atlanta Police Foundation’s Cop City project and destruction of the Weelaunee Forest.

The Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), in collaboration with other developers, is clear-cutting the Weelaunee Forest on Muscogee land in order to build an anti-insurrection police training facility. The Atlanta Police Foundation plans to build the proposed facility in low SES Black neighborhoods and communities. These communities are already subjected to police violence, and this violence will only increase with increased police presence. In addition, these communities will be most impacted by flooding and runoff as a result of this facility. For the past two years, local activists have been working tirelessly to prevent construction, but construction has begun, along with mass arrests of activists, the unprecedented state police murder of Tortuguita, a 26-year-old Afro-Indigenous medic, and a flood of propaganda falsely labeling activists “domestic terrorists.”

As counselors, we witness the carceral state’s daily assault on the physical and emotional well-being of our clients. Statistics on anti-Black police violence and mass incarceration are ubiquitous, and “deinstitutionalization” (a historical shift from psychiatric hospitals to expanded prisons and cut community mental health budgets) is correlated with current states of mass incarceration, and houselessness. Police and prison systems reproduce racialized trauma for Black and Native people. Police and prisons protect private property and reinforce class hierarchies that generate wealth for few while ravaging ecosystems shared by all. The decimation of green spaces and safe communities (yes, the police make us unsafe) are detrimental to those who live in these communities and to the collective psyche. Police and prisons harm everyone’s mental health.

We at Antioch understand the APF’s $90 million Cop City project to be one of many US initiatives that unjustly puts policing before crucial community mental health services, a practice that can only be understood through the massive profits generated by policing and incarceration. We who sign this letter vehemently oppose any expansion of police and prisons and we call for their abolition. We demand that members of the Atlanta Police Foundation Executive Board step down and that all companies involved in the funding and building of Cop City drop their contracts with APF or APF’s primary contractor Brassfield & Gorie. Companies include Invesco, GI Partners, Flock Safety, Speciality Finishes Incorporated, Bank of America, Banyan Street Capital, Bloom Parham Law Firm, Cookerly PR, Portman Holdings, King and Spalding, Delta, Home Depot, Corporate Services Company, Womble Bond Dickinson, JP Morgan Chase HQ, Jones Day, Greenberg Traurig, Cadence Bank, The Loudermilk Companies, Cushman Wakefield, Dallas Smith & Company, McKesson, Portman Holdings, and Bank of America.

Antioch Clinical Mental Health Counseling Faculty and Student signees in solidarity with the Stop Cop City and Defend the Atlanta Forest movements:

1. bria g. stareAssistant Professor
2. Cathy LounsburyProfessor, Chair
3. Charlie GallowayStudent
4. Tim PeperStudent
5. Jessica FloydStudent
6. Jessica GiordanoStudent
7. Max MartinStudent
8. Felicia WalalisStudent
9. Beth DonahueFaculty, Co-Director
10. Britt OrricoStudent
11. Jodie Horton-PiggottStudent
12. Summer VineyardStudent
13. Abbi Kanouse-SchaeferStudent
14. Emma BernoskyStudent
15. Eliza RosewoodClinical Faculty, Program Director
16. Sharon FriednerStudent
17. Catherine GardStudent
18. Amy MorrisonAssociate Professor, Program Director
19. Karen RolliniStudent
20. Devona Stalnaker-ShofnerAssociate Chair, New England
21. Ernie ZulloAssistant Professor, CMHC Online
22. Lora TraffieStudent
23. Brooke Herr-CardilloStudent
24. Randolph CromwellStudent
25. Thearany EngStudent
26. Elizabeth DeTampleStudent
27. Crystine GoldbergStudent
28. Taylor MasonStudent
29. Julie LandaStudent
30. Jace JamasonStudent
31. Melanie TreuhaftStudent
32.Emma ConantStudent
33. Hope DowneyStudent
34. Kate KelleyStudent
35. Lauren PenningtonStudent
36. Sierra ColbyStudent
37. Maria GonzalezSE CMHC Chair
38. Lindsey BatesStudent
39. Erica MunroStudent
40. Anna HillStudent
41. Ayla GustinStudent
42. Alicia StenersenStudent
43. Elizabeth StowersStudent
44. Erin BerzinsCore Faculty
45. Molli LutzStudent
46. Erin SiegferthStudent
47. Austin MabryStudent
48. Austin HuntStudent
49. Leia NapoliStudent
50. AshO’BrienStudent
51. Toby KramerStudent
52. Heather TiszaiStudent
53. Kara TomlinsonStudent

5 responses to “Over 50 clinical counseling students and faculty author open letter in solidarity with Forest Defenders”

  1. I publicly denounce The Atlanta Police Foundation’s Cop City project and destruction of the Weelaunee Forest! This project must be stopped and reevaluated

  2. Trees and forests have been shown to reduce stress and promote wellbeing. Anjan Chatterjee, MD, professor of neurology and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, has found that parks and gardens have a positive effect on human health and emotions. In this way, clear-cutting a forest new Black and Brown neighborhoods perpetuates ecological racism by robbing people of color of a forest that supports psychological health. In addition, cutting down the trees means that they can no longer act as a filter so that area residents can breathe cleaner air.

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