Organizers with the Cop City Vote campaign announced this week they gathered 80,000 signatures, passing their original goal. Now with an extended deadline they are looking to collect 100,000 signatures by Aug. 21.

The Associated Press reported in July that attorneys for the city of Atlanta argued in a court filing that the ongoing petition drive to halt the construction of the proposed police and firefighter training center southeast of downtown Atlanta is "futile" and "invalid" and sought to prevent the proposed referendum from appearing on November's ballot.

Since that time, activists with the "Stop Cop City" movement have been trying to gathering thousands of signatures to force a referendum.

Mary Hooks is an Atlanta activist working with the national Movement 4 Black Lives. Recently, she has been working as part of the tactical team organizing canvassers for the Cop City Vote campaign. She said despite the challenges of the referendum system, they will succeed.

"The requirements of who can sign and or who can't sign, I mean, it has made it a challenge,” Hooks said of the rules surrounding the petition. “We are not above a challenge. You know, we're here for it because we know that our people, our communities, our environment are worth the sacrifice and worth the struggle.”

Georgia law requires just over 58,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot, but organizers are gathering more in case of any new challenges by the City of Atlanta. National organizations like the Center for Popular Democracy are supporting the campaign through local affiliate and partners such as CASA, an immigrant organization and the Black Male Initiative, and activist group.

Michelle Sanchez usually works with CASA on voter engagement. Now she’s canvassing in Latino communities where she said they’re fighting misinformation.

“I heard that it doesn't even matter if I do sign, because the mayor said it doesn't [matter],” Sanchez said. “And so having to, you know, let them know that it absolutely does matter, because if we are able to get this on the ballot, then voters will be the ones who decide where their money is being used.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said during a July 5 press conference he did not personally believe the referendum would succeed. John Taylor with the Black Male Initiative said opposition from the city has created an interesting situation.

“The progressive movement in Atlanta worked very hard to put leadership in place that will reflect our views and values,” he said. “And then to now be in a position where we have to fight to get a referendum on a ballot so that we can let residents of the city of Atlanta decide about a situation — it's disheartening, to say the least.”

A federal judge ruled last month that the city of Atlanta imposed unfair restrictions on signature collecting by requiring canvassers also be residents. That decision restarted the timeline, giving referendum canvas teams another 60 days to collect signatures. Mary Hooks said the momentum from the Cop City Vote campaign doesn’t stop this year; it will impact city leaders in the next election.

“They should be very, very worried about 2025, and if they will remain as representatives, because at this point they have not shown that they actually want to represent a people,” she said.

After the Aug. 21 deadline, the city clerk has 50 days to verify the signatures. Oct. 15 is the last day City Council can add measures to the ballot. If verification is complete before that date, a vote could come in November; if not, the measure could happen in March.