Protests at a proposed police training center in Atlanta turned fiery on Sunday night when nearly 150 rioters set fire to construction vehicles and threw rocks, sticks and even Molotov cocktails at police.
The site of Atlanta’s future public safety training facility – dubbed Cop City by those protesting its development – is now closed as crews work to put out smoke and flames.
Officials say at least one construction vehicle was set on fire during Sunday night’s protests, and video posted online shows a police watch tower on fire.
Police say the protest has since been contained, although many of the protesters had dispersed back into the woods, where gunfire was heard, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
It remains unclear how many arrests were made and if anyone was injured in the blaze.
Protesters set fire to a police surveillance tower on the site of a proposed police training facility in Atlanta
Two large power line fires cut near the entrance to the prison farm lot on which Cop City is planned to be built. A few dozen patrol cars appear to run into each other near the music festival. pic.twitter.com/X99qNHVkGa
— Garrison Davis (or just Gare) (@hungrybowtie) March 5, 2023
Sunday’s rioters wore black and camouflage and masked their faces as they made their way to the site from their campsite in Welaunee Forest, the New York Times reports.
There they burned down police and construction vehicles and set off firecrackers as police were stationed nearby.
According to initial estimates, at least 30 people have been arrested as activist groups beg online for money for protesters’ bails.
The dramatic confrontation between police and protesters comes as individuals and activist organizations descend on the proposed site for a “week of action” to protest its development.
“This is the first week of action since the state killed someone,” Marlon Kautz, an organizer with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, told The Guardian, referring to the police killing of Manuel Paez Teran in January.
A private autopsy revealed he was shot 13 times.
Authorities have claimed Teran – who identified himself as non-binary – opened fire on a Georgia State Patrol soldier during a “clean-up” of the so-called autonomous zone at the site of the $90 million project.
“The overall character, mood and status of the fight has changed dramatically… [and] feels much more real – for us and for the state,” said Kautz.
The week of action was to include a Jewish Friday night Shabbat service, herbal workshops and a Know Your Rights workshop.
When the fiery riot broke out on Sunday night, a Weelaunee music festival was planned for the protesters who had descended into the forest in recent months.
Violent protests erupted in Atlanta, Georgia, following the shooting of 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran
The new website features a mock town that was the cause of months of unrest and controversy
The large-scale structure is used to train officers from the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department
Protesters who have formed a group called “Stop Cop City” say the 381-acre Weelaunee Forest is “stolen Muscogee land” and that creating it would mean destroying wildlife and forestry.
Since they first entered the forest last spring, they have become increasingly violent. Since December, 19 people have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.
Six of those arrests followed a violent riot in downtown Atlanta on Jan. 21 that was sparked by Teran’s death.
At the time, rioters were seen setting a police car on fire and destroying property. Explosives were also found at the crime scene.
The militant environmentalists try to protect the forest and the endangered South River.
Members of the South River Watershed Alliance have been working to preserve the area for years and say the training center can be created without destroying the surrounding area.
Jacqueline Echols, executive chair of the South River Watershed Alliance, said in a statement: “I strongly believe that the training desired can be accomplished without destroying the prison farm acreage.
“The protection of the local ecosystem, the cultural and historical importance of the property, and the health and well-being of the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods must be considered in a balanced and equitable manner.”
Stop Cop City activists also say the city of Atlanta has “leased” the land — something the mayor’s office has disputed by saying the city in unincorporated DeKalb County owns it.
Stretching 85 acres into the DeKalb County woods, it is known as the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, where prisoners worked in poor conditions in the 20th century.
Prisoners helped make the facility self-sustaining in 1935, and the penitentiary officially closed in 1995. Since then she has been abandoned.
Devastating fires also ravaged the property in 2009 and 2017 – illegal rubbish had been dumped and caused a huge fire, meaning the site was sealed off until plans for the training ground were approved.
Authorities say protesters dressed all in black threw rocks at a building housing the Atlanta Police Foundation in protest
The Atlanta Police Department’s massive construction project was announced in November 2021 and is scheduled to open in late 2023 after a difficult two-year process.
It will have extensive facilities and a mock town and fire station to allow emergency services to better train their staff.
It will also contain:
An Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) for fire brigade and police driver training;
A training and education center with a modular design that allows for classroom, auditorium, seminar education and training;
Academy Enclosures for Police, Fire/Rescue Recruits;
The Atlanta Police Leadership Institute;
indoor and outdoor shooting ranges;
A fitness center for sworn officers;
stables and pasture for dwelling for mounted patrols;
A kennel and indoor/outdoor training center for the canine department;
Publicly accessible green spaces with hiking trails, sports fields and picnic areas;
facilities that law enforcement agencies and the public can hire; And
A Community Watch training program for our communities.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11824357/Gunshots-ring-protesters-throw-Molotov-cocktails-Cop-City-site-Atlanta.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Gunshots ring out as protesters throw Molotov cocktails at the Cop City compound in Atlanta