Opinion: Out-of-control protesters must be stopped

The Editorial Board’s view: Bring to justice those whose violence demeans right to protest
Graffiti near a dirt part off Key Road in southern DeKalb County, just outside the property where the Atlanta Police Foundation plans to build a new public safety training center.

Credit: Tyler Estep

Credit: Tyler Estep

Graffiti near a dirt part off Key Road in southern DeKalb County, just outside the property where the Atlanta Police Foundation plans to build a new public safety training center.

We said it before, and we’ll say it again.

The group of so-called activists trying to halt construction of Atlanta’s new police and fire training center crossed yet another line – and they must be stopped.

The trouble began in May, when protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police officers who were trying to remove them from the 85-acre site of the future training center, just outside city limits in DeKalb County.

Then, the Fulton County district attorney announced she was investigating whether the group was behind an out-of-control crime spree that ranged from vandalizing offices, to destroying equipment to threatening contractors.

And now we’ve learned that the group vandalized the home of an Alabama construction executive – simply because of his ties to the training center.

In an anonymous online blog post, the anti-training center activists boasted about vandalizing the home of M. Miller Gorrie, the chairman of Brasfield & Gorrie, a primary contractor for the training center. And they said they also damaged two of Gorrie’s cars by splashing them “with a gallon of lacquer thinner.”

“On the driveway we left a message: c u soon. it’s up to you if we make good on this promise … if your dumb company drops the cop city contract then stylish people like us wouldn’t feel so compelled to visit you ever again,” the post read, referencing the nickname of “Cop City” that activists have given the project.

The authorities in Mountain Brook, Ala., have now launched an investigation of their own.

Yes, there was a strong reaction by some community members when plans for the training center were announced.

We also recognize that not everyone was satisfied with the changes that were made after talks with the community.

But supporters, including the Atlanta Police Foundation and city and corporate leaders, say the new training center is needed since existing facilities are outdated, which hurts morale and recruitment.

It’s understandable that some would be opposed to the idea.

And peaceful protest is a right all citizens enjoy.

But regardless of where you fall on the issue, we can all agree that a small group of people do not have a license to engage in violent behavior.

In June, we called on those opposed to the training center to do everything within their power to reign in rogue members.

As we said then: Enough.

It’s time to bring those intent on breaking the law to justice.

If not, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt or killed.

And that’s no way to make a point.

The Editorial Board