Opinion: Lawlessness over new APD training site must stop

Protestors march through downtown Atlanta to the World of Coca-Cola on Friday, Sept 3, 2021 to demonstrate against the proposed police training facility to be voted on next week.  Coke is one of several corporations in Atlanta supporting the proposed 85-acre police training facility for police and firefighters to be built in unincorporated DeKalb County.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Protestors march through downtown Atlanta to the World of Coca-Cola on Friday, Sept 3, 2021 to demonstrate against the proposed police training facility to be voted on next week. Coke is one of several corporations in Atlanta supporting the proposed 85-acre police training facility for police and firefighters to be built in unincorporated DeKalb County. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

THE EDITORIAL BOARD’S VIEW

It’s one thing to peacefully protest.

It’s another to resort to violence and destruction.

All of which explains why investigators are now looking at a group of activists who’ve tried to halt construction of Atlanta’s new police and fire training center.

Could the group be responsible for an out-of-control crime spree that ranges from vandalizing offices, destroying equipment and threatening contractors?

“Certainly, people are looking at that angle,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told us on Monday.

If so, this group of so-called activists has crossed a line – and they must be stopped.

Long-simmering tensions between the group and police boiled over in May, when officers removed some of them from the 85-acre site of a future training center just outside city limits in DeKalb County, where they had been camped out in an attempt to keep the new facility from being built.

The group recklessly and dangerously resorted to violence by throwing rocks and two Molotov cocktails at police officers.

There was a strong reaction by some community members when plans for the training center were announced. The issue was hashed out, some changes were agreed upon and plans proceeded. While not everyone was satisfied, that doesn’t give a small group of people the license to engage in violent and life-threatening behavior.

And it’s not as if these are neighborhood folks with a real stake in what happens around their homes. Of the seven people charged in May’s incident, one in lives in Gainesville; the other six are from out of state, police said.

Now the group’s criminal behavior may have struck the offices of Brasfield & Gorrie, the general contractor chosen to build the facility, and been behind a fire at a youth center for at-risk teens.

Not only were the company’s Alabama and Cobb County offices vandalized, but employees and their families have been targeted at their homes, at church and in online attacks, according to some reports.

The financial and emotional toll is no small thing.

In Birmingham, an attack on the offices of Brasfield & Gorrie resulted in $80,000 in damage – thanks to criminals clad in black face coverings and white jumpsuits who shattered windows and painted “Drop Cop City or Else,” on the building, according to a social media post from Crime Stoppers Atlanta.

At the company’s Cobb County offices, members of the group ignited Roman candles in front of the building, causing the grass to catch fire, and shattered windows with “hand-thrown paint bombs.” They also spray-painted “No Forest No Peace,” “Stop Cop City” and “Trees Not Cops,” according to arrest warrants.

Enough.

It’s reasonable for some to be opposed to the idea of building a new training facility. Peaceful protest is a right all citizens enjoy. But it’s time to bring those intent on breaking the law to justice, before someone gets seriously hurt or killed.

The Editorial Board.