ATLANTA — As scores of attackers wearing black masks attacked the site of a police training facility built in a forested region outside of Atlanta where one demonstrator was killed in January, more than 20 individuals from across the nation were charged with domestic terrorism on Monday.
The location has developed into a hotspot of ongoing tension between the government and left-leaning demonstrators who have banded together to voice their support for various issues. These include those opposed to the militarization of law enforcement, those working to conserve the environment, and those opposed to businesses they believe are contributing to the project’s funding by donating to a police foundation.
At “Cop City,” where environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as “Tortuguita,” was shot and killed by police in January during a raid on a protest camp, protesters threw rocks and flaming bottles at police on Sunday. Several activists have disputed the police’s claim that Tortuguita attacked them.
One is from Canada, and two are from France; most of the 23 persons detained are Americans, according to police on Monday.
Friends and family stated Tortuguita was committed to protecting the environment, contrasting with Atlanta’s plans to construct a $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to increase readiness and morale following George Floyd’s passing in 2020.
Authorities and youth are currently involved in a confrontation that isn’t connected to previous well-publicized crises.
Young, self-described anarchists seeking confrontations with what they perceive to be an unfair society are among the protesters who oppose what critics call a “Police City,” as do more traditional environmentalists.
On Monday, members of the movement’s social media network, Defend the Atlanta Forest, stated on Twitter that those arrested were “peaceful concert-goers who were nowhere near the demonstration,” not violent agitators. A public relations company involved in the group’s activities responded through a representative that it could only react after some time.
Demonstrations began when “Tortuguita” was killed and eventually reached downtown Atlanta. In a skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation, pyrotechnics, rocks, and a police cruiser were all fired. Windows had been broken. The governor announced a state of emergency.
The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site in DeKalb County was the target of what Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum described as “a concerted attack” on Sunday when pieces of construction equipment were set ablaze.
Police have released surveillance footage that shows a piece of large machinery on fire. Many other items of construction equipment were also destroyed, according to authorities.
According to officials, protesters also hurled pyrotechnics, Molotov cocktails, rocks, and stones at the police. On Monday, the Georgia Department of Public Safety reported that protesters tried to dazzle police by shining green lasers into their eyes and blocking a road with tires and other objects.
According to Schierbaum, officers employed nonlethal tactics to break up the crowd and make arrests, causing “some mild discomfort.”
The training facility would have classrooms and office buildings, a shooting range, a driving course for chasing scenarios, and a “burn building” where firemen could practice putting out fires. A “mock hamlet” with a phony residence, convenience store, and nightclub would also be constructed for practicing raids.
The 85-acre (34-hectare) training complex would need to have a significant number of trees cut down, according to opponents, who claim it would have a negative environmental impact.
In a city with one of the greatest levels of inequality in the country, many activists also reject spending millions on a police facility that impoverished communities would border.
According to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, the area was cleared for a former state prison farm decades ago. He claims it is overgrown with alien species instead of hardwood trees and covered in rubble. According to the mayor, the complex will be erected on 85 acres, while the remaining 300 will be conserved as public green space.