As city and state leaders and police condemned the violence that broke out Sunday, police prepared for additional protests planned in the coming days.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday said those involved put “destruction and vandalism” over “legitimate protest.”
“As I’ve said before, domestic terrorism will NOT be tolerated in this state,” Kemp said in a statement. “As we continue to respect peaceful protest, we will also continue to ensure safety in our communities. We will not rest until those who use violence and intimidation for an extremist end are brought to full justice.”
Meanwhile, an activist group called “Stop Cop City” said it was officers who raided a nearby music festival, a news release from the group states. A separate group of protesters marched onto the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site to protest the recent death of an activist who is accused of firing at a state trooper.
Some of the violence at the site, located near Bouldercrest Road and Key Road in DeKalb, was captured on surveillance cameras and released by Atlanta police.
Several pieces of construction equipment were set on fire, Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum said during a news conference late Sunday. Investigators believe those involved had initially attended the music festival before beginning what was described by police as a “coordinated attack.”
“Actions such as this will not be tolerated,” Schierbaum said. “When you attack law enforcement officers, when you damage equipment, you are breaking the law.”
No officers were injured during the incident, Schierbaum said. They used non-lethal enforcement methods to help disperse the crowd and detain those involved, he said.
“This was a very violent attack, very violent attack,” Schierbaum said. “This wasn’t about a public safety training center. This was about anarchy and this was about the attempt to destabilize, and we are addressing that quickly.”
On Monday morning, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers was among those who condemned the violence.
Republican State Sen. John Albers of Roswell criticized “heinous actions, these direct attacks on our police and the property that is meant to do the one thing that everybody agrees we need to do: more training for our police, our fire, our EMS and our 911.”
State Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta, praised law enforcement agencies for containing the violence.
”The public training facility will be built. I’m 100% for the right to protest, but I am against violent protesting we’ve seen time and time again at this location,” she said, adding: “We do need to hold police accountable, but we also need to make sure we resource and train our public safety officials.”
The latest violence comes just weeks after an incident in downtown Atlanta that left windows smashed and an Atlanta police car torched.
A number of protesters, most from out of state, face charges of domestic terrorism and a litany of other offenses stemming from that incident. Defendants in that case include a “brand ambassador” from Pittsburgh, a biology student (on the dean’s list) from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the son of a millionaire surgeon who grew up in a mansion in Kennebunkport, Maine.
“The state of Georgia has shamefully chosen to pursue ‘domestic terrorism’ charges against environmental activists engaging in First Amendment-protected speech and civil disobedience,” said Matt Bass, an attorney representing some of the defendants. “My clients will vigorously defend their constitutional rights, and look forward to their day in court where they will have their names cleared.”
“This was not a protest,” Schierbaum said after the Sunday night incident. “This is criminal activity and the criminal charges will show that.”
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Sandy Springs police and the Georgia State Patrol assisted Atlanta officers during the violence. Both the GBI and FBI were also notified and are assisting with the investigation, Atlanta police said.
Various groups who have protested against the site view it as an effort by Atlanta to “militarize” the police while also compromising the environment by building a center on land that they say should be preserved and cleaned up. The city says the center is a much-needed and long-overdue training facility for Atlanta’s police officers and firefighters.
Credit: Miguel Martinez
Credit: Miguel Martinez
The conflict over the project attracted national attention after a trooper in January fatally shot protester Manuel Teran at the site. The GBI said Teran shot first and wounded the trooper as the state tried to clear the property of protesters.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said last week that the city is creating a new task force to address concerns surrounding the site.
In December when a fire was reported, a dumpster was set ablaze at the site and police were greeted by a group of protesters who hurled rocks at firefighters and set off firecrackers, according to Atlanta and DeKalb police.
— Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article. Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.
23 ARRESTED AFTER VIOLENCE AT TRAINING CENTER SITE
- Jack Beaman, 10/2000, GA
- Ayla King, 4/2004, MA
- Kamryn Pipes, 1/1996, LA
- Maggie Gates, 12/1997, IN
- Ehret Nottingham, 10/2000, CO
- Alexis Paplai, 5/1974, MA
- Timothy Bilodeau, 7/1997, MA
- Victor Puertas, 11/1976, UT
- Dimitri LeNy, 11/1997, France
- Amin Chaoui, 9/1991, VA
- James Marsicano, 3/1993, NC
- Samuel Ward, 2/1997, AZ
- Max Biederman, 9/1997, AZ
- Mattia Luini, 9/1992, NY
- Emma Bogush, 5/1998, CT
- Kayley Meissner, 4/2003, WI
- Luke Harper, 10/1995, FL
- Grace Martin, 4/2000, WI
- Colin Dorsey, 11/1980, ME
- Fredrique Robert-Paul, 6/1988, Canada
- Zoe Larmey, 8/1997, TN
- Thomas Jurgens, 2/1995, GA
- Priscilla Grim, 3/1974, NY
Source: Atlanta Police Department