About three dozen people were detained after a violent protest at a new police training center threw flaming bottles and rocks at officers at a new police training center that was the site of an earlier protest, leaving one protester dead, Atlanta police said.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a midnight news conference that several pieces of construction equipment caught fire Sunday at the site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in DeKalb County.
Surveillance video released by police shows pieces of heavy equipment on fire at the construction site in what critics say is a fire “Cop City.” It was among several pieces of construction equipment destroyed, police said.
Protesters dressed in all black threw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police officers at the construction site on Sunday, police said.
Other police agencies stepped in to assist city officers and no officers were injured, Schierbaum said. Officers used restraint and nonlethal enforcement methods to disperse the crowd and detain those involved, he said.
“The protesters destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment through fire and vandalism,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a news release issued Sunday night. At that time, according to the police department, 35 people involved in the protest were detained.
“Unlawful actions by protesters may result in physical harm. … With protests planned for the coming days, the Atlanta Police Department, in cooperation with law enforcement partners, has a multi-tiered strategy that includes responses and arrests,” police said in the release.
At the press conference, Schierbaum described the protest as a “very violent attack.”
“This was not about a public safety training center,” he said. “It was about anarchy … and we’re resolving it quickly.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said those involved “chose destruction and vandalism over a legitimate protest, once again demonstrating the extremist intent behind their actions.”
“As I’ve said before, domestic terrorism will not be tolerated in this state,” Kemp said in a statement Monday.
“We will not rest until those who perpetrate violence and intimidation to end extremism are brought to full justice,” he said.
The names of those in custody and the criminal charges against them were not immediately available early Monday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But Schierbaum said many are not from the Atlanta area.
In January, a 26-year-old environmental activist was shot dead by law enforcement officials in the forest where the training center was being built.
More protests are planned in the coming days, police said.
“The Atlanta Police Department asks that this week’s protests remain peaceful,” police said in a statement.
Escalating clashes between environmental activists and law enforcement officials in Atlanta drew national attention earlier this year. In January, a clash between police and protesters at a “Cop City” construction site – which unfolded as officers tried to evacuate people from the area – ended with the bullets. One protester was killed and a state trooper was injured, but details of what happened remain unclear.
Manuel Esteban Páez Teran, a “forester” known as Tortuguita, was shot dead. Teran’s death sparked outrage and controversy across the country and sparked tensions among environmentalists and law enforcement in the Atlanta area. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the shooting was not recorded on police body cameras.
The $90 million, 85-acre center, which includes a shooting range, mock city and burn building among other facilities, “will redefine law enforcement training and police/fire rescue community engagement,” said the Atlanta Police Foundation -profit. which helps fund police initiatives through private-public partnerships, a statement on its website said.
But the training center faced almost immediate opposition, coming on the heels of a tumultuous year of high-profile cases of police brutality and strained community relations.
Kara Tabachnik contributed to this report.