Violent protest in downtown Atlanta over killing of activist
ATLANTA (AP) — A protest in downtown Atlanta turned violent Saturday night after the death of an environmental activist, who was killed this week after authorities said the 26-year-old shot and killed a state trooper.
Masked activists dressed all in black threw rocks and set off firecrackers in front of a skyscraper housing the Atlanta Police Foundation, smashing large glass windows. They then set fire to a police car and vandalized other buildings with anti-police graffiti while stunned tourists dispersed.
The violent protesters were a subset of hundreds of protesters who had gathered and marched up Atlanta’s famous Peachtree Street to mourn the death of the protester, a non-binary person who went by the name Tortuguita and used she/it pronouns.
Tortuguita was killed Wednesday as authorities cleared a small group of protesters from the site of a proposed Atlanta-area public safety training center that activists have dubbed “Cop City.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tortuguita was killed after shooting and injuring a state police officer, but activists have questioned the version of events, calling it a “homicide” and calling for an independent investigation.
According to the GBI, the incident was not recorded with body cameras. The GBI said Friday the soldier was found to have been shot in the abdomen by a bullet from a handgun in Tortuguita’s possession.
News of Saturday’s protest had been widely circulated on social media and among left-wing activists in advance, with some handing out flyers that read: “Police have killed a protester. Stand up. fight back.”
A police statement said protesters damaged property at several locations along Peachtree Street, a corridor lined with hotels and restaurants, adding that several arrests were made and “order was quickly restored downtown”.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
“This is still an active and ongoing investigation and we are unable to provide details of arrest numbers or property damaged at this time,” police said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp condemned the violence and thanked responding officers.
“Violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest,” the Republican governor tweeted. “These are crimes that will not be tolerated and prosecuted in Georgia.
Opponents of the training center have been protesting for over a year, building platforms in surrounding trees and camping on the site.
They say the $90 million project that would be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation would involve cutting down so many trees it would be environmentally unfriendly. They also refuse to invest that much money in a facility they say will be used to practice “urban warfare.”
The GBI said about 25 campsites were located and removed on Wednesday, and mortar-style firecrackers, edged weapons, pellet guns, gas masks and a blowtorch were recovered.
Seven people were arrested during the raid and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespassing, with other charges pending, the GBI said. They range in age from 20 to 34 and none of them are Georgia residents.