Tear gas used as police and protesters clash at Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Activists and police had a confrontation involving tear gas during a march by the group “Block Cop City” on Monday.
“This is the very reason we say ‘No Cop City’ because we know the militarization of the police will continue and today was a perfect example of that,” said Kamau Franklin, an organizer.
The activists gathered Monday morning at Gresham Park to march in protest of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, which critics refer to as “Cop City.”
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said the demonstrators were acting under the guise of non-violence.
“This is a group today that left prepared to breach the site, prepared to do harm, prepared to do destruction,” said Schierbaum during a press briefing following the demonstration.
The march followed a weekend full of events by the group “Block Cop City.” They started Friday, using the time to prepare for today with protest training and legal education.
“We’ve been out here for two years fighting to ‘Stop Cop City.’ In that time, a lot has happened,” said Franklin. “People have lost their lives. People have been charged with domestic terrorism.”
DeKalb County police said the protestors began an “unpermitted march” on Constitution Road toward the site of the future training facility, blocking two lanes of traffic, around 10:30 a.m.
Around 10:50 a.m., police said the protestors were told by loudspeaker that they were “obstructing the roadway and that they would not be permitted to proceed.”
Police said protestors ignored commands and they then forced their way through a line of 30 DeKalb police officers, and that’s when the tear gas was used.
City officials said one school, Christine Elizabeth Academy, went into a lockdown out of precaution during the morning.
Around 11:45 a.m., police said protestors started walking back toward Gresham Park.
DeKalb County police said there were no injuries and no arrests as of noon on Monday.
As of 1:30 p.m., Atlanta police said there have been no arrests.
Around 2:45 p.m. on Monday, DeKalb County police said around 100 protestors returned to Gresham Park and have remained peaceful.
DeKalb County police said the agency is monitoring the situation.
At the late Monday afternoon press conference, Schierbaum said some of the protestors assembled peacefully while others had makeshift weapons, gas masks and were covered in plastic. Schierbaum said those in the group were preparing for police to use chemical agents. Police said bolt cutters, gas masks and an “array of tools” that look like digging tools were seized. Police said the tools that were seized can have multiple uses and could be used as a breaching tool.
As of 4:30 p.m., DeKalb County police said all protestors had left the area.
DeKalb County police said one arrest had been made. Molly Goldstein Block of Arizona was arrested for giving a false name and date of birth and obstruction of an officer.
Police also said protestors deployed smoke bombs and when police searched the area, three bags of metal grinders and smoke bombs were found.
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The protesting and outrage against the facility have been ongoing. The center is being built as a place where police, fire, EMS, and first responders can learn de-escalation and other training.
Protestors take issue with the facility due to its environmental impact as well as opposition to police presence due to police misconduct, police brutality, and over-policing.
At the rally ahead of the march, Manuel Paez Teran’s parents spoke. Paez Teran was shot and killed by police while protesting in the forest in January.
“We’re going to continue running. We’re going to continue defending the forest. We’re going to continue defending the legacy of Tortuguita,” said Joel Paez.
At an event on Sunday, Atlanta News First spoke with a man who traveled from New York to be a part of the “Stop Cop City” movement.
“I think it’s all hands on deck approach. I think we fight this legislatively. I think we fight this every day in our communities. I think we fight this with direct action and education but also making sure we’re listening to people that are living in these neighborhoods and those in touch with the environmental issues as well,” said Derrick Ingram with the Stop Cop City Movement.
The group plans to march on a path through the woods toward the construction site for the training facility. DeKalb County and Atlanta police have the training facility’s campus surrounded.
JUST NOW: Some demonstrators just stopped to plant baby trees on the grounds of the training center. For many, they’re driven to protest based on deforestation and environmental concerns. @ATLNewsFirst https://t.co/0asv8AVJdl pic.twitter.com/j2vuo4FStn— Patrick Quinn (@PatrickQuinnTV) November 13, 2023
RIGHT NOW: Standstill between police and ‘Block Cop City’ demonstrators.— Patrick Quinn (@PatrickQuinnTV) November 13, 2023
After a brief cash where pepper spray was used, demonstrators pulled back about a quarter mile from the future public safety training center.@ATLNewsFirst pic.twitter.com/XAw5iYgJJJ
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