Kemp vows more arrests in Atlanta training center protests



Governor’s statement comes after activist claims to set Oregon bank fire in solidarity with local movement

After an anonymous activist claimed to set an Oregon bank on fire in solidarity with those fighting against Atlanta’s public safety training center, Gov. Brian Kemp vowed on Twitter that the six protesters recently arrested on domestic terrorism charges wouldn’t be the last.

Doubling down on previous statements, the governor wrote Wednesday that anyone committing illegal acts while protesting the construction of the controversial training center would be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Rest assured, [those arrested last month] will not be the last we will take down as this project moves forward,” Kemp said. “The only response we will give to intimidation and violence is swift and exact justice.”

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A spokesman for the governor confirmed the tweet was in response to a Fox News story about a Bank of America set on fire in Portland, Oregon, some 2,600 miles away from the planned training center site in southwest DeKalb County.

On a blog tied to the loose coalition of activists trying to stop the $90-million facility from being built, an anonymous poster claimed responsibility for the New Year’s Eve fire.

“Bank of America funds the Atlanta Police Foundation and a thousand other projects of control,” the poster wrote. “Earlier that day, the six friends in Atlanta charged with ‘domestic terrorism’ were released from jail. May this fire bring them some warmth in winter.

“Long live anarchy!”

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Protest activity — traditional and otherwise — has been commonplace in the year-plus since Atlanta’s City Council approved the land lease paving the way for the Atlanta Police Foundation to build the new training center.

Locally, the more extreme left-wing activists have taken up residence in trees on the site; vandalized equipment; and attacked law enforcement and construction contractors with everything from soda cans and rocks to Molotov cocktails.

The domestic terrorism charges filed against the six people arrested in and around the training center site last month were based largely on their alleged affiliation with the larger “defend the Atlanta forest” movement, which authorities have deemed to be a domestic violent extremist group.

The purported fire in Oregon was far from the first action taken outside the bounds of the forest, the city or the state.

Unnamed folks sympathetic to the cause have previously claimed responsibility for vandalizing the offices of construction firms in several states, as well as the Alabama home of an executive from Brasfield & Gorie, one of the chief contractors on the training center project.

Another recent blog post claimed responsibility for vandalizing the Manhattan apartment complex of an executive from another firm.

Other Bank of America locations have also been vandalized.

The training center site and a adjacent property also targeted by activists have seemingly been quiet since the mid-December sweep led by the GBI, DeKalb and Atlanta police, and others.

But there’s still a long way to go. Construction hasn’t even begun.

Atlanta owns the property in question and does not have to go through the normal zoning process. But the site is in DeKalb, meaning the county must approve the necessary permits for construction to begin.

That hasn’t yet happened.

Activists running the @defendATLforest Twitter handle remained defiant this week.

“Our New Years resolution is the same as last: Stop Cop City,” they wrote.

The James M. Cox Foundation, the charitable arm of Cox Enterprises which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has contributed to the training center fundraising campaign. It is among several Atlanta-based foundations that have contributed.