Atlanta ‘Cop City’ Protests Are Violent

HProtesters on Sunday overran the site of a proposed public safety training facility in southeast Atlanta, torching construction vehicles and shooting fireworks at police officers. The Atlanta Police Department said 23 people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism after bricks, rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers stationed nearby.

The violent clashes came on the second day of what activists are calling a week-long “mass mobilization” to protest the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a planned 85-acre campus branded “Cop City” by opponents who say the the propaganda complex would militarize the police and harm the environment.

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“A group of violent agitators used the cover of a planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center peaceful protest to launch a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers,” the police department said.

Atlanta Police surveillance footage captured construction equipment burning out of control at the site as black-clad protesters entered the fence construction area before squad cars and armed officers arrived. Protesters were seen throwing large rocks, bricks, molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers. No officers were injured.

Police said they “exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement” to detain 35 people. Of those detained, 23 were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to an update Monday afternoon. Only two of the people arrested are not from Georgia; one is from Canada and another is from France.

Law enforcement is seen at the planned site of a police training facility nicknamed by activists

Law enforcement is seen at the planned site of a police training facility dubbed “Cop City” by activists, during the first raid since the death of activist Manuel Teran near Atlanta, Ga. on February 6, 2023.

Cheney Orr – AFP/Getty Images

Why do Protestants oppose the Facility?

Tensions over the proposed police training facility have risen between law enforcement and protesters in recent months. Opponents of the center began organizing against the complex shortly after the Atlanta City Council authorized it in 2021. Activists say the announcement surprised local residents and the development process has been largely secret. , with limited input from those directly affected. .

Environmental advocates want to preserve the wooded area, which spans more than 1,000 acres. The planned center, located in DeKalb County, is expected to cost $90 million, largely funded by the Atlanta Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization, as a way to offer better police training and boost morale amid recruiting struggles. and retention. The city has said that trees cleared during construction would be replaced, and that it would protect more than 200 acres of land around the facility.

Other activists are concerned that the development of the training site will enable an increase in the militarization of the police forces in the area, which is 55% Black. Attention to police practices has increased following months of demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.

Democratic Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who is Black, said at a press conference in late January that the proposed training facility would help address many of the concerns about bad police practices. “Our training includes critical areas such as de-escalation training techniques, mental health, community-oriented policing, crisis intervention training, as well as civil rights history education,” he said. “This training needs space, and that’s exactly what this training center has to offer.”

Construction equipment was set on fire on March 4, 2023 by a group protesting the proposed public safety training center, according to police.  (Atlanta Police Department/AP)

Construction equipment was set on fire on March 4, 2023 by a group protesting the proposed public safety training center, according to police.

Atlanta Police Department/AP

Why Protests Turned Violent

Violent protests surrounding the proposed police training facility in Atlanta began on January 21, when a police vehicle was set on fire and windows were broken in downtown buildings following the fatal police shooting of 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran. age. social justice activist protesting the proposed site. Police said he opened fire first, injuring a state trooper; activists called for an independent investigation into the shooting.

Georgia Gov. announced. Brian Kemp, a Republican, declared a state of emergency on January 26 and called for the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops amid simmering tensions at the training facility. Some arrested at the site have previously been charged with domestic terrorism.

This weekend’s planned demonstrations began peacefully on Saturday with a rally, a march through the South River Forest, and a music and arts festival.

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Write to Nik Popli at [email protected].

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