Opponents of Atlanta police training center say cops arrested 1, detained others

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Atlanta police confirm they were serving a warrant Saturday morning

At the end of a “Week of Action” that saw peaceful and violent protests over the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, police and activists came face to face again.

On Thursday, Atlanta police said that “units were out serving a warrant” on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, opponents of the training center said several people were detained in an incident near the site of the planned center.

Multiple people had been camping at the Lakewood Environmental Arts Foundation, a nonprofit organization in the Lakewood neighborhood near the South River Forest.

The Atlanta Solidarity Fund told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that one person was arrested due to an incident unrelated to protests and others were detained.

“Witnesses report that everyone camping on the property was peaceful during the raid, and cooperated with police orders,” the solidarity fund added.

Officers were serving a warrant at 69 Schell Road, according to an incident report released Thursday. While searching and clearing procedures were taking place, officers made a series of announcements ordering those on the property to peacefully exit, according to the report.

Some of those complied, while others did not and remained hidden throughout the property, the report states. All but one person surrendered peacefully.

According to the report, officers detained the man and used “minor physical compliance techniques,” which were documented in the officer’s body-worn camera and a supplemental use of report was completed.

It took about three hours for officers to clear the area. According to the report, two “less lethal chemical agent” deployments took place in areas where officers believed people were hiding. No injuries were reported during the operation.

Saturday’s incident came after several other planned events around the city as part of the Week of Action organized by protesters of the training center, the Atlanta Solidarity Fund said.

Earlier, a large contingent of protesters gathered at the King Center to demand that public officials stop construction at the site. As they marched, protesters chanted, “Stop Cop City,” “Viva, viva Tortuguita,” “No justice, no peace” and “I believe that we will win.”

Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran was shot and killed in January by a Georgia State Patrol trooper at the training site, the GBI previously said. Teran is accused of shooting “without warning” and wounding a trooper before several of the injured officer’s colleagues returned fire. Teran’s family disputes the allegation.

Attorneys for Teran’s family said an independent autopsy showed the activist’s hands were raised when fatally shot by state troopers in January.

“Tortuguita is alive in our hearts,” said Teran’s mother, Belkis Teran. “My prayer is that the blood of my son will speak in all our hearts. We are going to win.”

The organizers of the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” movement, which spearheaded a peaceful protest March 4 at Gresham Park, view the training center 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, on the other hand, has said the center is a much-needed and long-overdue training facility for Atlanta’s police officers and firefighters.

On March 5, nearly two dozen people were charged by the GBI with domestic terrorism after allegedly throwing large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at officers at the site, according to police. Those join the already more than a dozen people who have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism since December.

Human rights and civil rights groups have argued against the ongoing use of domestic terrorism charges against those protesting the construction of the facility on 85 acres of forest in southern DeKalb County.

“This is a fight that we will win, that we are committed to winning,” Jasmine Burnett with Community Movement Builders said during last week’s protest. “We will free all our political prisoners. Free them all, especially in this moment, the people being held on trumped-up domestic terrorism charges, many of which were just literally holding signs like y’all today, that say ‘Stop Cop City.’”