ATLANTA – Hundreds of activists broke into the site of a proposed police and fire training center in a tree-lined suburb of Atlanta on Sunday, torched police and construction vehicles and a trailer, and set off fireworks at officers stationed nearby.
The destruction comes on the second day of what is said to be a week-long series of protests against what activists have derided as Cop City on the city-owned 85-acre campus. The complex includes classrooms, an amphitheater and areas where law enforcement officers can simulate shootings and high-speed chases, and firefighters can learn to drive fire trucks and battle bells. It was not immediately known if anyone was injured.
In the past few months, tensions between police officers and protesters have increased in the area adjacent to the forest. Environmentalists want the forest, which covers more than 1,000 acres, to be preserved as one of the region’s most important green spaces. Other activists are concerned that development of the training base will help increase the militarization of local police forces. Opponents of the center began organizing against the campus shortly after the Atlanta City Council approved it in 2021.
In January, 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Páez Terran died and a state trooper was seriously injured in clashes as police cleared protesters from the woods.
On Sunday, many of the demonstrators — who joined a subset of several hundred protesters and stayed in the area where the music was playing — grabbed small items as they walked through tall grass and mud to the construction site, dressed in black and camouflage, with their faces covered. Fences in the way. As the vehicles were set on fire, the police saw and did not intervene at first.
An Atlanta police helicopter hovered overhead. Minutes later, the protesters returned to the area where they had gathered since Saturday, where live music blared over loudspeakers. Subsequently, the police gathered in the area and arrested him. The Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — the agency investigating the January death — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The planned center in DeKalb County is estimated to cost $90 million, and the Atlanta Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is raising most of that.
Activists against the development began their planned week of protest on Saturday with a rally, a march through the South River Forest and a music and art festival.
Blue Bohra Contributed report.