Authorities say six people were arrested Saturday night in downtown Atlanta, Amid protests against a proposed police training facility and the police shooting of an activist earlier this week.
Atlanta Police Chief Darrin Silbaum said at a news conference that protesters marched in a “peaceful manner” on a street in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night, but then a group of people in the crowd began “committing illegal acts. “behavior”, including breaking windows and assaulting police cars.
Police arrested six people and are continuing to investigate whether others were involved in illegal activities, the official said. Windows at three businesses were damaged, he added.
Social media footage showed a patrol police car on fire downtown, and video from CNN affiliate WANF showed broken windows at a Wells Fargo bank.
The protests come in response to plans for a $90 million, 85-acre law enforcement training facility – dubbed a “police city” by its opponents – and come days after a 26-year-old activist Killed by police near the training center.
CNN has reached out to local movements opposing the project for comment.
Some of those arrested Saturday “had been involved in other criminal activities and were involved in some way in preventing the construction of the public safety training center,” Silbaum said.
“My message to those who are trying to continue this criminal behavior is simple,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said at a news conference. “We will find you, we will arrest you, and you will be held accountable. Dickens is one of the city council members voting for the training center in 2021.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Say “Violent and illegal destruction of property is not an act of protest. They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be fully prosecuted,” he tweeted.
At a news conference, Dickens said many of those arrested “didn’t even live in Atlanta or Georgia” and that some were found “with explosives.”
The activist was shot and killed by police Wednesday morning in what authorities said was a cleanup operation to remove people from the site of the future facility. Opponents of the center have been camped in the area for months trying to block construction.
Law enforcement officers found a person in a tent in the woods and gave verbal orders, but the person allegedly disobeyed and shot a Georgia State Patrol press release, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
Police returned fire and wounded the man, who died at the scene. A pistol recovered from the person matched the pellet from the soldier’s wound, the GBI said.
The victim was identified as Manuel Esteban Pez Tran.
Activists associated with the movement protesting the facility disputed the law enforcement account, calling Tran a “champion of the forest” who worked to combat environmental racism. Tran, also known as Tortuguita, was a “lovable, warm, very intelligent and caring” individual, the local justice group said.
The wounded soldier was taken to a local hospital for surgery and was in stable condition Wednesday night, authorities said. The Georgia Department of Public Safety said it would not release the officer’s name because “disclosing the information would compromise security and prevent criminal or terrorist acts in retaliation.”
Additionally, the GBI said that during the cleanup, it discovered and dismantled about 25 campsites and arrested and charged seven people with domestic terrorism and trespassing. It added that authorities had recovered “mortar-style fireworks, multi-bladed weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks and blowtorches”.
The Atlanta Police Foundation said the planned training center was needed to help boost morale and recruiting efforts, and the facility previously used by law enforcement was substandard.
But the facility, which includes a shooting range, simulated city and burned-out buildings, has met with backlash.
While some critics of the project see it as a response to protests over police brutality and racial injustice in 2020, city leaders said the center would also help address police reform, without offering further details.
Some residents also accused the city of catching neighbors off guard with what they said was a largely secretive development process with little community input. Taxpayers will cover the cost of the facility, about $30 million, with the rest coming from private philanthropy and corporate donations, city officials said.
Activists have also long raised concerns about the project’s environmental impact: The training center would open up a large swath of woodland and carve up what local advocates hope will be a network of connected green spaces spanning parts of Atlanta and DeKalb counties.