By Alexis Stevens
Source The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Protesters dressed in all black threw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers Sunday at the construction site for the new Atlanta Police Department training facility, according to police.
Several pieces of construction equipment were set on fire, Atlanta’s police Chief Darin Schierbaum said during a press conference around midnight. Some 35 people had been detained as other police agencies stepped in to assist the city’s officers.
“Actions such as this will not be tolerated,” Schierbaum said. “When you attack law enforcement officers, when you damage equipment, you are breaking the law.”
Investigators believe those involved had initially attended a nearby music festival before beginning what was described by police as a “coordinated attack” at the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site, near Bouldercrest Road and Key Road in DeKalb County.
No officers were injured during the incident, Schierbaum said. Officers used non-lethal enforcement methods to help disperse the crowd and detain those involved, he said.
“This was a very violent attack, very violent attack,” Schierbaum said. This wasn’t about a public safety training center. This was about anarchy and this was about the attempt to be stabilized, and we are addressing that quickly.”
The names of those in custody and the criminal charges were not immediately available early Monday. But the police chief said many were not from the Atlanta area.
“This was not a protest,” Schierbaum said. “This is criminal activity and the criminal charges will show that.”
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Sandy Springs police and the Georgia State Patrol assisted Atlanta officers during the violence. Both the GBI and FBI were also notified and are assisting with the investigation, Atlanta police said.
Various groups who have protested against the site view the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center as an effort by Atlanta to “militarize” the police while also compromising the environment by building a center on land that they say should be preserved and cleaned up. The city says the center is a much-needed and long-overdue training facility for Atlanta’s police officers and firefighters.
The conflict over the project attracted national attention after a Georgia State Patrol trooper in January fatally shot protester Manuel Teran at the training site. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Teran shot first and wounded the trooper as the state tried to clear the property of protesters.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said last week that the city is creating a new task force to address concerns surrounding the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site.
On Saturday, a week of protests and festivities kicked off with the goal of stopping the project on the 85-acre wooded property. A music festival was among the activities to help draw attention to the issue.
In December when a fire was reported, a dumpster was set ablaze at the site and police were greeted by a group of protesters who hurled rocks at firefighters and set off firecrackers, according to Atlanta and DeKalb police.
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