CNN reports that massive protests erupted in Downtown Atlanta on Saturday (January 21), resulting in arrests for property damage. The protests are in response to plans for a new police training facility and the shooting death of a local activist earlier this week.
Atlanta Police Sgt. Jarius Daugherty said that “several arrests” were made, but he did not provide an exact number of arrests or what property was damaged.
Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) tweeted that “violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest. They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be prosecuted fully.”
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The protests come in response to plans for a $90 million, 85-acre law enforcement training facility that was approved by the city last year. The facility, dubbed “Cop City,” received a lot of pushback from the community.
In addition, days before Saturday’s protests, 26-year-old environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was gunned down near the site of the proposed facility. The shooting occurred on Wednesday (Jan. 18) during a clearing operation. Protesters have been camping out in the area for months to halt construction.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Teran, described by others as a “forest defender” fighting against environmental racism, didn’t comply with law enforcement’s commands to leave. Instead, Teran allegedly shot a Georgia state trooper. Officers returned fire, fatally wounding Teran, who died at the scene.
The injured trooper is in stable condition at a local hospital.
On Saturday, eyewitnesses saw protesters throwing stones at police cars and damaging buildings in downtown Atlanta, according to CNN affiliate WANF. At a press conference later that evening, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said, “The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department will not tolerate this, and we continue to protect the right to peacefully protest. We will not tolerate violence and property destruction. We will find you, we will arrest you and you will be held accountable.”
Atlanta Police Department has issued a statement:
“The Atlanta Police Department is aware of these events, and we will continue to monitor them. We stand ready to respond to demonstrations to ensure the safety of those in our communities and those exercising their first amendment right, or to address illegal activity, should the need arise.”