Downtown Atlanta protest turns into riot, six arrested, police say

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What began as a peaceful protest over the death of a Georgia activist took a violent turn in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night as people began throwing bricks at buildings and setting fire to police vehicles. At a joint news conference, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Darin Schierbaum made their position very clear: They will always support and protect the First Amendment right to peacefully protest, there is no room for violence in Atlanta.

Protesters took to the Atlanta subway Saturday to demand an investigation into the death of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, a 26-year-old protester who was killed by Georgia state troopers during a sweep of Intrenchment Creek Park on Wednesday. This area is the planned location for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, or what some critics call the “City of Cops”.

GEORGIA POLICE STABLE AFTER BEING BEATED, DEAD PROTESTER NEAR CONTROVERSIAL ‘COP CITY’ POLICE FACILITY

Manuel Esteban Páez Terán (Provided for FOX 5)

Investigators said Teran failed to carry out commands from a joint task force and that he first shot a soldier.

“We can debate the circumstances of what happened on Wednesday all day,” Casey Sharp, who opposes the police training center, told FOX 5. “I would like to see an independent investigation into this.”

Handgun Recovered from OIS Scene 1.18.23

(Georgia Bureau of Investigation)

On Friday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released a photo of the gun the agency said it found on Teran. Authorities said ballistic investigators compared the gun to the bullet that wounded the officer.

Seven people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism on Wednesday.

Mourners gather at the former site of Intrenchment Creek Park, near the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, for a candlelight vigil in honor of a protester killed earlier in the week on January 20, 2023. (Billy Heath / FOX 5)

After a Friday night memorial service for Teran, who friends called “Tortuguita,” Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said a large crowd gathered Saturday for a peaceful protest on the Atlanta subway. The area is famous for hosting Atlanta’s “Peach Drop” New Year’s festivities.

For about an hour, people dressed in black marched down Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, demanding justice for ‘Tortuguita’.

Protesters march through the streets of downtown Atlanta in search of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, a 26-year-old protester who was killed by Georgia state police officers who said they shot them first. (credit: Billy Heath)

From: FOX 5 Atlanta

“However, when this group arrived at the intersection of Ellis Street and Peachtree Street, a group within that crowd decided to start committing illegal acts, including breaking windows and attacking police vehicles that were in the area,” Schierbaum said. The chief said that some of these individuals were actors who had participated in other protests in the past.

Mayor Dickens said some of them were carrying explosives.

“What I saw was not peaceful,” one witness, David Abrohams told FOX 5, “Yeah, no, I mean blowing up police cars and throwing firecrackers at cops is not peaceful.”

FOX 5 was airborne when one of these vehicles suddenly caught fire.

Individuals were also seen on camera smashing the windows of another police car.

Image 1 of 8 ▼ Atlanta Police Department vehicle caught fire during protest. (credit: Billy Heath)

From: FOX 5 Atlanta

FOX 5 reporter Tyler Fingert and photojournalist Billy Heath III saw Atlanta police officers carrying neckties during Saturday’s protest.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a lawyer to say that breaking windows or setting fires is not protest, this is terrorism,” Schierbaum said at a news conference after the incident. “They will be charged accordingly and find that this police department and the partnership are equally committed to stopping this activity.”

Schierbaum said that within two blocks, illegal activity stopped and six individuals were arrested.

The Atlanta Police Department released the following statement:

“Atlanta law enforcement responded to a mob that damaged property in multiple locations throughout Peachtree. [Street]. Several arrests were made at this time and order was restored to the downtown space. This is still an active and ongoing investigation, and we will not be able to provide details on numbers of arrests or property damaged at this time.”

A heavy police presence is expected in the area for the remainder of the night.

Three businesses along Peachtree Street suffered damage to their windows.

“My message to those seeking to continue this type of criminal behavior: We will find you, we will arrest you and you will be held accountable,” Mayor Dickens said.

Both Mayor Dickens and Chief Schierbaum said that while they fully support and protect the right to protest, damage to property will result in prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

“Violence and illegal destruction of property are not acts of protest,” Governor Kemp tweeted Saturday night. “These are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be fully prosecuted. Thanks to the worker [Georgia Department of Public Safety, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Atlanta Police Department]and others actively keeping our streets safe tonight.”

There were no injuries reported by police or protesters involved.

MARTA officials announced that trains would not service Peachtree Center Station, trolley van service has been temporarily suspended, and bus service is being provided from Garnett to Civic Center serving all stations except Peachtree Center. Affected passengers can use the following link to get an $8 Uber or Lyft credit, according to MARTA.

This story is breaking. Please check back for updates. If you have additional information, photos or video email newstipsatlanta@fox.com.

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