Dozens of people gathered outside of Atlanta City Hall on Friday to protest plans to build a police and firefighter training center across 85 acres of wooded property in DeKalb County.

“Stop cop city,” chanted 64 protesters in reference to the name activists use to denounce Atlanta’s proposed public safety training center.

Friday’s protest attracted adults and children as they marched around the City Hall building for an hour. The demonstrators, who declined to be named, said they initiated the protest because officials have begun to cut down trees at the site of the planned facility.

In protest of the deforestation, the crowd chanted “not one blade of grass” as they carried a large banner that said “Save Weelaunee Forest,” which is the name given to the site by the native Muscogee Creek nation.

During the evening protest, at least two manned Atlanta Police Department vehicles were posted on all four sides of the building on Trinity Avenue and Mitchell Street. Four officers dressed in bulletproof vests stood beside four APD vehicles near the building’s Trinity Avenue entrance alone.

Regardless, the protest remained peaceful, even as the demonstrators taunted the officers observing the event. At one point, the protesters shoved their fingers and signs in the faces of three officers, including Felipe den Brok, Atlanta’s director for the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

In another instance, the protesters told another group of officers to quit their jobs.

Demonstrators occupied the forest in south DeKalb County for months. They built encampments and opposed police and contractors by stalling the development, often by vandalizing construction equipment. Online, hashtags supporting the movement have come from groups across the nation and internationally.

Locally, the backlash against the $90 million project has resulted in property damage in both the forest and in downtown Atlanta. In January, a state trooper fatally shot a 26-year-old activist Manuel Teran at the forest site amid a police operation to push protesters out of the forest.

Despite all of this, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has repeatedly voiced his commitment to building the center in partnership with the Atlanta Police Foundation, which is paying for more than 60% of the project.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens answers questions in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the Atlanta Public Safety Center.

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