Stop Cop City Activists Turn Up the Heat on Nationwide Insurance in Arizona

Collin Mayfield/Sipa USA via AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.On Monday evening, three activists connected with the effort to stall construction of a vast police training facility just outside of Atlanta were arrested 1,700 miles away in Arizona as organizers target insurance companies connected to the project. 
Scottsdale Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance, is one of the primary insurers of the Atlanta Police Foundation, the organization spearheading the construction of what activist’s call “Cop City,” according to records obtained by Truthout.
In a video shared with a Truthout reporter, activists can be seen staging a sit-in in the middle of two entrances to the community, in which they say a Nationwide executive lives, with their hands duct taped to concrete-filled tires, chanting “this is not a local struggle” as cars line up behind them. Arizona’s Maricopa County Sherriff’s office confirmed that protestors there were removed, arrested, and jailed for “[d]isorderly conduct, [t]respassing, and resisting arrest.” 
“I’ve decided to lock myself down today to show that there will be no peace in your home while you attack ours,” said one of the protesters before locking themselves down. 
The $90 million dollar facility is 75 percent completed, according to Atlanta officials. Activists have spent the last three years using a variety of legal, political, and legislative avenues, including a referendum that generated thousands of signatures that the city refused to verify for months, to stop construction of the facility, which they believe will further expose Atlanta residents to police violence and destroy one of the last remaining urban forests in the area. Activists have mobilized support from around the country and from key players in the Democratic Party like Stacey Abrams. As a result of their work, nearly 60 percent of Atlanta voters want the future of Cop City to be determined by public vote.  
Local officials have responded by doubling down on the importance of the training center, which they claim is critical to improving public safety. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has gone out of his way to disparage the referendum effort, but the City Council passed legislation in early February that will move the Stop Cop City ballot initiative forward albeit with a restrictive signature verification process that could disproportionately impact Black, elderly, and disabled voters. 
The Arizona protest came hours after more than 50 activists rallied at the main headquarters of Nationwide Insurance in Scottsdale, Arizona. According to a press representative for the activists, the goal of the rally and sit-in was to pressure the company’s Arizona subsidiary to cancel its insurance contract with the Atlanta Police Foundation. Nationwide Insurance reportedly shut down its headquarters in anticipation of protests. The company did not respond to a request for comment. 
Charges against the arrested protesters have yet to be announced, but in Georgia Stop Cop City activists are facing an avalanche of political repression. According to the New York Times, 43 people who have demonstrated against the training facility are now facing domestic terrorism charges, a move the ACLU has described as an “extreme intimidation” tactic. Even more are facing police surveillance and intimidation.
Just two weeks ago, Georgia law enforcement conducted three pre-dawn raids against activists in what officials claim was an effort to identify activists committing acts of sabotage and arson against training center construction and police equipment. Law enforcement arrested one activist for arson and, according to the Guardian, forced “a woman out of her house with no shirt, left a naked photo of another woman on display after ransacking a room and dragged a man by his hair—while arresting none of them.” 
While the movement to Stop Cop City is rooted in Atlanta, it has energized organizers across the country, including in Arizona, where activists just hosted a national summit to Stop Cop City last week. To many of the participants, the police training facility (and the legal and political efforts to crush the resistance) is a national issue. They also see it as intertwined with Israel’s escalating war on Gaza, as Cop City will likely supercharge existing efforts, like the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE), to train Israeli police officers in the Atlanta area.
“The expansion of police power in Atlanta is intimately connected to the violence of the border here in the Sonoran Desert, which is intimately connected to the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” said Ian Blank, an activist who joined the rally outside Nationwide Insurance. “The same corporations profiting off the genocide of Gaza, such as Tucson-based weapons manufacturer Raytheon, are also innovating surveillance technologies along the U.S./Mexico border.”