ATLANTA (AP) — A protest turned violent in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night following the death of an environmental activist who was killed by authorities this week after officials said the young man 26-year-old had shot a state trooper.
Masked activists dressed in black threw rocks and set off fireworks in front of a skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation, smashing through large glass windows. They then set fire to a police car, smashed other windows and vandalized walls with anti-police graffiti as stunned tourists dispersed.
The violent protesters were a subsection of hundreds of protesters who had gathered and marched down Atlanta’s famous Peachtree Street to mourn the death of the protester, a non-binary person who went by the name Tortuguita and used pronouns.
Tortuguita was killed Wednesday as authorities cleared a small group of protesters from the site of a planned public safety training center in the Atlanta area that activists have dubbed “Cop City.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tortuguita was killed by officers after shooting and wounding a state trooper, but activists have questioned officials’ version of events, calling it a “murder” and demanding a response. independent investigation.
According to the GBI, the incident was not recorded on body cameras. The office said Friday it determined the soldier was hit in the abdomen by a bullet from a handgun in Tortuguita’s possession.
News of Saturday’s protest had been widely circulated in advance on social media and among left-wing activists, with some handing out leaflets saying: “Police have killed a protester. To get up. To defend oneself.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told a news conference that authorities made six arrests on Saturday and recovered explosive devices after protesters damaged property along Peachtree Street, a corridor of hotels and restaurants. He said authorities had halted the violence within a two-block radius and no citizens or law enforcement officers were injured.
“We can say now, at the start of this investigation, that tonight the objective was not just to damage the windows of three buildings and set a police cruiser on fire,” Schierbaum said. “The intention was to continue to cause harm, and it didn’t happen.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp denounced the violence and thanked officers who responded.
‘Violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest,’ Republican governor says tweeted. “These are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be fully prosecuted.”
The first hour of the protest had been peaceful as a few activists shared their memories of Tortuguita, describing them as an extremely loving and caring member of the “Stop Cop City” community. Speakers said Tortuguita took a 20-hour medical course to serve as a doctor for other ‘forest defenders’ who found their home in the DeKalb County woods just outside the city limits. the city of Atlanta.
Opponents of the training center have been protesting for more than a year by building platforms in the surrounding trees and camping on the site.
They say the $90 million project, which would be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, would involve cutting down so many trees that it would be damaging to the environment. They also object to spending so much money on a facility they believe will be used to practice “urban warfare.”
The GBI said about 25 campsites were located and removed in Wednesday’s raid, and mortar-type fireworks, edged weapons, pellet guns, gas masks and a blowtorch were recovered .
Seven people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespassing, with other charges pending, the GBI said. They are between the ages of 20 and 34, and neither is a resident of Georgia.