Downtown Atlanta protests over activist’s murder end with 6 arrests

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ATLANTA – A protest turned to momentary chaos and multiple arrests in downtown Atlanta on Saturday, as a group of about 100 people marched to protest police after an environmental activist was killed earlier this week.

The activist, a “forest defender” who went by the name Tortuguita, was killed on Wednesday when authorities dispersed a group of protesters who had gathered around the site of a planned public safety training center that his opponents call from “Cop City”.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tortuguita was killed after shooting a state trooper in the abdomen, causing non-life-threatening injuries, but others have called for an independent investigation into the murder, according to the Associated Press. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the incident was not recorded on body cameras, the AP reported.

Some protesters who marched on Saturday carried banners that read: “You can’t kill us all,” “Justice for Tortuguita” and “Trees give life, the police take it away.”

As protesters marched up Peachtree Street, in the heart of Atlanta’s business and entertainment district, some of the group, dressed entirely in black, began smashing windows and setting off fireworks, targeting Wells Fargo Bank, Chase Bank and another building that was supposedly it houses the offices of the Atlanta Police Foundation.

An Atlanta police car appeared to have been set on fire in front of a Hooters restaurant, which was packed with people watching the NFL playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. Tourists and soccer fans rushed into the house as police arrived and stopped several demonstrators.

Six people were arrested and explosive devices recovered, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told a news conference, but no one was injured. He emphasized that those who caused damage to property were a small subset among other peaceful protesters.

Police are still assessing whether they need to make more arrests for broken windows at at least three businesses, Schierbaum said.

Speaking at the press conference, Mayor Andre Dickens said the city “will not tolerate violence or destruction of property.”

“My message is simple for those looking to continue this type of criminal behavior,” he said. “We will find you, we will arrest you and you will be held accountable.”

After the demonstrations appeared to have dispersed, dozens of Georgia State Patrol officers responded to the city to support Atlanta police. Atlanta police also closed off a four-block area downtown.

Kasulis Cho reported from Seoul.

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