#StopCopCity and our Fight to Protect Black Girls & Youth

Girls for Gender Equity
5 min readMar 22, 2023

by: Heaven Peoples & Damala Denny, Manager of Youth & Alumni Organizing (GGE)

Girls for Gender Equity

Last week, organizers across the country collaborated on the fight to stop “Cop City” — a project in Atlanta, supported by influential corporations and the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a mock city in the Weelaunee forest. They plan to construct a massive training center to practice militant policing tactics — which we know disproportionately harms Black and indigenous communities. Girls for Gender Equity attended a rally and march in midtown Manhattan where we were present to represent the org, our target was a Chase Bank headquarters; one of the funders for Cop City. Folks gave speeches on the connected racial, gender, and environmental justice struggles we’re fighting for— including Land Back agreements. Our speech uplifted Black girls and gender expansive youth and their experiences of the education system’s prioritization of police and policing being funded over and against them.

Our lives have been impacted by policing in schools and our communities — we know folks that have been incarcerated and receive heavy sentences for minor offenses. There are overly harsh punishments for youth in schools such as suspensions and expulsions for little to no reason, like dress codes or speaking out of turn. Police in schools escalate situations that could be settled in restorative justice circles or mediation; they are not part of school communities and should not hold positions that are better suited to others. Our school system is reflective of what’s going on in the world — practices of policing are also being perpetuated by school staff. So in schools, as in the world, Black and brown youth are victims of violence at the hands of the police.

School police target Black, Latine/LatinX, and Indigenous students who, in 2019, represented 67% of the NYC Student Population but “somehow” made up 91% of all school-based arrests. Parents and guardians would be interested to learn that 1 in 3 school police interventions targeted students in elementary or middle school, those are youths aged 5 to 13 years old.

Salon.com/The New York Times

In terms of restraints, 1 in 5 young people had metal or velcro handcuffs used on them by police. Of all 2019 interventions, 89% targeted Black and LatinX students, for girls that disparity was even worse! Police and policing are tools of white supremacy and patriarchy used to suppress resistance. Policing uses violence, surveillance, and militant tactics to enforce the status quo and push back on liberation movements — like those demanding racial justice, gender justice, and full and free access to life’s chances. Or those demanding access to clean water, air, green spaces, and unspoiled land, because we know the land is tied to our existence, our dignity, and our survival.

To save Black lives, we must #StopCopCity in Atlanta and everywhere while investing significant resources in providing people with good jobs, schools, access to clean land, water, air, and universal healthcare.

We see a lot of investment in policing, with constant claims that there will be more training and reform, and over and over that doesn’t work. We need to start over from square one! With the $90 million, we would like to see more rehabilitation or therapeutic interventions instead of policing. Rather than juvenile detention, a more holistic approach to “discipline” including mental healthcare, community-building opportunities, and more personalized support that actually addresses and attends to one’s needs should be our first choices. Instead of being boxed in, youth should have the support and resources THEY need, that address the root of how they got into trouble to begin with. We are calling for more investment in students and public schools: in building more culturally affirming curriculums, experiential learning and community projects, mental health services, and updating physical school spaces themselves.

Atlanta’s Cop City would set a precedent for spending on policing on the national scale. In New York alone, the annual policing budget is $450million — if you spread that money over our 1600 public schools, it would give each school an additional $282,000 a year. These additional funds could hire thousands of school counselors, support hundreds of youth-led programs, provide equipment for sports teams and extracurricular activities for millions of youth, and so much more.

Police have a poor record of doing their most fundamental job: solving murders and other serious crimes. For years, we’ve cut essential services like public education, food banks, and prevention programs that had positive impacts and erroneously expected the police to solve social problems for which they’re neither trained nor qualified. Defunding the police and investing in alternatives is integral to dismantling anti-Black and systemic racism. Alternatives that we should be investing in are civilian first-responder programs, restorative justice, and investments in new and community-based public safety models.

Dignity In Schools, #CounselorsNotCops

We already know what we want and need to feel safe in our communities, and we know it is NOT Cop City.

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Damala Denny (she/her) is the Manager of Youth and Alumni Organizing at Girls for Gender Equity. She works to center the needs of Black cis- and trans- girls, gender nonconforming and gender expansive young people. She convenes youth across the country to organize around Ending Gender-Based Violence and Building Cultures of Consent; Expanding Education Justice and Equity for Black youth; and the Decriminalization of Black Girls.

Heaven Peoples (she/her) is a Speakers Bureau member at Girls for Gender Equity. She consistently works toward the wellness of Black girls and prioritizes community building. As a founder of Step Up: Social Justice Club, within Long Island City High School, she continues to build on the act of mentorship and education to prevail over injustices directly impacting marginalized communities. She is studying Psychology & Social Work.

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Girls for Gender Equity

Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is an intergenerational organization centering the leadership of cis and trans Black girls and gender-expansive youth of color.