ATLANTA — A peaceful protest in downtown Atlanta turned violent Saturday night when protesters set fire to a police car and began smashing windows.
Six protesters have been arrested, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum announced at a news conference Saturday night. These people were not identified and their accusations were not made public.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said several of those arrested did not live in the Atlanta area or Georgia.
Hundreds of protesters, who oppose the construction of an APD training center, gathered on the Atlanta subway before heading down Peachtree St., in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
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Chief Schierbaum said a group of protesters dressed in black began peacefully marching down Peachtree St. When they reached the Ellis Street intersection, some of the protesters began smashing windows and attacking APD patrol cars. One of the APD cruisers was set on fire.
Within two blocks, Atlanta police officers on the scene stopped the violence from spreading further into the downtown area. Chief Schierbaum said the group’s intention was to continue causing damage.
Three businesses, including a Wells Fargo bank, were damaged, Schierbaum said.
No police or citizens were injured.
Spokespersons for Stop Cop City, who have repeatedly stated they are peaceful protesters, released a statement saying they are not backing down and do not believe their actions on Saturday night were violent.
“The destruction of material is fundamentally different from violence. All reported acts appear to be explicitly directed against the funders and henchmen of the Atlanta Police Foundation, a shadowy non-profit organization that funnels military weapons and equipment into our city to wage war against blacks and browns. The police invaded the forest for more than 7 months, destroying material, destroying camps and water supplies, threatening the lives of forest defenders and now they have murdered one. Protesters are just leveling the playing field and preventing future violence by disabling the economic machine of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which seeks to sterilize all life within the Weelaunee Forest.”
They later released an amended statement that read:
“What is the appropriate reaction to the police murder of Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Esteban Paez Teran? The destruction of material is fundamentally different from the violence that led to someone’s light being turned off. We’re seeing what we’ve seen across the country, a grieving community seeking accountability against the funders and henchmen of the Atlanta Police Foundation, a shadowy non-profit organization that funnels weapons and military equipment into our city to wage war against black, indigenous, pardos and poor of the community. Police evoked violence when they invaded the forest for more than 7 months, destroying material by destroying camps and water supplies and threatening the lives of forest defenders. It seems the community is trying to shut down the economic machine of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which seeks to sterilize all life within the Weelaunee Forest to protect the community they love from further violence.
Mike Register, director of the GBI, said the protesters were not peaceful but had been violent on many occasions.
“Arson, attacking citizens, shooting at police, using explosives,” Register told a news conference on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the Georgia State Patrol and other agencies were at the site of the proposed facility, clearing out protesters who had been camped in the woods for months.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says one of the protesters, Manuel Teran, shot a state trooper and was killed by return fire.
Friends of Teran, who went by the nickname “Tortuguita”, have repeatedly said since the shooting that they are peaceful protesters.
Seven protesters were arrested on Wednesday and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespassing.
The governor’s office released a statement saying it will not tolerate any illegal crimes in the name of peaceful protest.
The Governor remains well informed of the situation through regular updates from the State Police and is actively monitoring the situation. The state patrol is well equipped to respond to any and all threats to public safety and is in close coordination with other state agencies and the local PD.
As long as the state continues to respect peaceful protest, acts of violence against people or property will NOT be tolerated. Those who commit such illegal acts will be arrested and prosecuted in full.
Shortly thereafter, Governor Brian Kemp himself tweeted a statement.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted calling those involved “rioters”. Carr said Channel 2’s Mark Winne earlier this week, he is working on a sweeping indictment to charge these protesters with domestic terrorism.
Atlanta Police released the following statement to Channel 2 action news:
“The Atlanta Police Department is aware of ongoing events and we will continue to monitor and act accordingly. 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 activities if necessary..”
At 6:45 pm, Atlanta Police released an update saying:
“Atlanta police responded to a mob that damaged property in several locations along Peachtree St. Several arrests were made at this time and order was restored in the city centre. This is still an active and ongoing investigation and we will not be able to provide details on arrest numbers or damaged property at this time..”
Chief Schierbaum said the FBI, GBI, ATF and the Georgia Attorney General’s Office are assisting with the investigation.
Channel 2 Action News is working to gather additional information.
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Watch the full press conference with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum here.
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