Canadian among those arrested in Atlanta police protest
More than 20 people from across the country faced domestic terrorism charges on Monday after dozens of black-masked youths attacked a police training center under construction in a wooded area outside Atlanta, where a protester was killed in January.
The area has become the site of an ongoing conflict between the authorities and left-wing protesters.
Flaming bottles and rocks were thrown at officers during a protest in Cop City on Sunday, where 26-year-old environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, or “Tortugita,” was killed by police during an attack on a protest camp. January Police said Tortuguita attacked them, a theory other activists questioned.
Almost all those arrested are from different parts of the country, while one is from France and the other from Canada, police said.
Like many protesters, Tortuguita was committed to environmentalism, friends and family said, ideals that conflicted with Atlanta’s hopes of building a $90 million public safety training center in Atlanta that would boost police preparedness in the wake of violent protests that have rocked the country. After the death of George Floyd in 2020
Now the authorities and the youth are embroiled in a conflict that seems to have little to do with other high-profile conflicts.
Protesters against what detractors call “Police City” range from more traditional environmentalists to young, self-proclaimed anarchists seeking confrontation with their unjust society.
On January 21, protests spread through downtown Atlanta as a police cruiser was burned, rocks were thrown and fireworks were set off at the skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation. The windows were broken.
On Sunday, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a midnight press conference that several pieces of construction equipment were set on fire in what he called a “coordinated attack” at the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site in DeKalb County.
Surveillance video released by police shows a piece of heavy equipment on fire. Police said it was among many pieces of construction equipment that were destroyed. Protesters threw rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police, officials said.
Officers used non-lethal enforcement techniques to disperse the crowd and make arrests, Schierbaum said, which “caused a little bit of anxiety.”
Protesters tried to blind officers by shining green lasers in their eyes and used tires and debris to block the road, the Georgia Department of Public Safety said Monday.
Along with classrooms and administrative buildings, the training center will include a shooting range, a driving course for pursuits and a “burnt building” where firefighters will work to put out fires. A “mock village” featuring a fake house, convenience store and nightclub will also be built to rehearse raids.
Opponents say the site will be used to wage “urban warfare”. Opponents say building the 85-acre (34-hectare) training center would involve cutting down so many trees that it would harm the environment.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the buildings would be built on a site that was cleared decades ago for a former state prison farm. He said the tract is littered with rubble and overgrown with invasive species rather than hardwoods. The mayor also said that while the facility will be built on 85 acres, about 300 will be preserved as public green space.
Many activists also object to spending millions on a police facility that would be surrounded by poor neighborhoods in a city with some of the highest levels of inequality in the country.
Many of those already charged with violence in connection with the school protests are charged with domestic violence, which carries up to 35 years in prison. The allegations have drawn criticism from some that the state is heavy-handed.
Lawmakers are considering classifying domestic terrorism as a serious violent crime. That means anyone convicted must serve their entire sentence, cannot be placed on probation as a first offender, and cannot be released on parole unless they have served at least 30 years in prison.
Meanwhile, police said on Monday that protests are planned for the coming days.
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