Cop City protests: Dozens detained after a construction vehicle was set ablaze and bricks thrown at the proposed police training site in Atlanta, authorities said
At least 35 people were detained after a construction vehicle was set on fire and bricks and stones were thrown at officers on Sunday night as violent protests continued on the sprawling grounds of a planned police training facility in Atlanta.
Orange flames rose from a construction tractor and at least four other fires burned in and around the fenced area as people in black swarmed on both sides of the barricade before patrol cars and armed officers arrived, according to surveillance video released by the Atlanta Police Department.
“A group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest from the planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to launch a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers,” police said.
The group donned black clothing, entered the construction site and threw large rocks, stones, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at police officers, destroying construction equipment “by fire and vandalism,” the agency said in a statement. “The illegal actions of the agitators could have resulted in bodily harm.”
“Appropriate charges” are being coordinated with DeKalb County prosecutors and the office of Georgia Attorney General, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference Sunday, adding that some of the detainees are not from Atlanta and that no officers were injured.
“Officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to make arrests,” the police statement added.
Sunday’s scrap follows at least two “clearance operations” — one in which officers shot and killed a protester — this year by police on the wooded lot planned to house the $90 million, 85-acre law enforcement facility. Opponents of the “Stop Cop City” group and others object, saying the project would propagate police militarization and harm the environment.
The Atlanta Police Department will now implement a “layered strategy” including “response and arrest” as more protests are planned in the coming days, it said in its statement, adding that it “calls for the protests of to remain peaceful this week.”
“If you throw commercial fireworks, if you throw Molotov cocktails, big rocks, any number of objects at officers, your only intention is to cause harm, and the indictment will show that,” Schierbaum said.
Some were arrested at the site last year accused of domestic terrorism.
Despite concerns from protesters and some neighbors of the DeKalb County site, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens supports the development of the training facility, which will include a shooting range, mock city and fire building. More than 200 acres around it will be protected greenery, he said.
“The City of Atlanta has the most extensive exercise requirements in the Southeast,” Dickens said this year. “Our training covers vital areas such as de-escalation training techniques, mental health, community-based policing, crisis intervention training, and civil rights history education.
“This training needs space and that is exactly what this training center will offer.”