Authorities, activists clashing again at Atlanta training center site

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Authorities were attempting to “clear out the woods” at the site of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center Tuesday morning, marking the most recent in a series of clashes with activists opposed to the project.

Shortly after 9 a.m., media organizations aligned with “stop cop city” activists who have taken up residence on the training center property for more than a year tweeted that Atlanta police were “currently raiding” the forest.

“Treesitters report that they are surrounded and being teargas’d by police,” the Atlanta Community Press Collective wrote.

Another organization affiliated with the activists later wrote that “dozens of police officers, undercover police cars, and UTVs” had swarmed the site.

An Atlanta police spokesman, meanwhile, deferred inquiries to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. A spokeswoman for that agency said only that it was “assisting the Atlanta Police Department and other local, state, and task force members with removing barricades blocking some of the entrances to the training center.”

Alison Clark, a local resident and chair of the advisory committee helping guide certain aspects of the project, offered more details.

Clark said authorities originally responded to the training center site after activists initiated fires at an access point off Key Road. DeKalb County police responded and activists shot off fireworks, including in the direction of a nearby fire station.

Atlanta and other law enforcement entities then commenced “combing through the woods to clear anybody and everybody out.”

Clark said at least one arrest had been made.

The situation was believed to still be active Tuesday afternoon.

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The Atlanta City Council approved last fall a land lease clearing the way for the Atlanta Police Foundation to build the training center — a sprawling $90-million facility — on more than 300-acres of city-owned forest in unincorporated DeKalb County.

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.

The City Council’s vote came despite hours of mostly negative public feedback. And while more traditional opposition movements have continued, a coalition of left-wing protesters have also taken more extreme actions, including vandalizing equipment and contractors’ officers and throwing Molotov cocktails at police.

Just this past weekend, DeKalb County firefighters responding to a dumpster fire on the training center site were reportedly greeted by protesters hurling rocks and lighting firecrackers. The fire crews were escorted away by DeKalb police, Lt. Shane Smith said.

All of it has come before construction even begins in earnest.

While the proposed project is on city-owned land and does not need to go through normal rezoning channels, it still must be permitted through DeKalb County. Land disturbance permits, the first step toward the start of work, are still being considered but could be ruled upon soon.