ATLANTA (AP) — Protests turned into riots in downtown Atlanta Saturday night in the wake of the death of an environmental activist who was killed this week after officials said they shot a state police officer.
Masked activists dressed in all black threw rocks and set off fireworks in front of the skyscraper housing the Atlanta Police Foundation, shattering the large glass windows. They then set a police car on fire and vandalized other buildings with anti-police graffiti amidst a streak of stunned tourists.
Violent protesters gathered and marched down Atlanta’s famous Peachtree Street, going by the name Tortuguita, of hundreds of demonstrators mourning the death of the protester, a nonbinary person who used pronouns. It was a subsection.
Tortuguita was killed Wednesday as authorities cleared a small group of protesters from the grounds of a planned public security training center in the Atlanta area that activists have dubbed “Cop City.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tortuguita died after shooting and wounding a state police officer, but activists questioned the agency’s account, calling it a “murder” and calling for an independent investigation.
The incident was not recorded by body cameras, according to GBI. The GBI said Friday it determined the trooper had been shot in the abdomen by a bullet from a pistol in Tortuguita’s possession.
Word of Saturday’s protest spread widely in advance on social media and among left-wing activists, saying, “Police killed protesters. Stand up. Fight back.”
Protesters caused property damage at several locations along Peachtree Street, which is lined with hotels and restaurants, and several arrests were made, according to a police statement. ‘ added.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
“This is still an active and ongoing investigation and we are unable to provide details of the number of arrests or property damaged at this time,” police said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp condemned the violence and thanked the officers who responded.
The Republican governor tweeted, “Violence and illegal property destruction are not protests.”These are unforgivable crimes in Georgia and will be fully prosecuted.
Opponents of the training center have protested for over a year by building platforms in the surrounding trees and camping at the site.
They say the $90 million project to be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation will require cutting down enough trees to damage the environment. They also oppose investing large sums of money in facilities they say will be used to practice “urban warfare”.
About 25 campsites were identified and removed on Wednesday and mortar-type fireworks, knives, pellet rifles, gas masks and blow torches were recovered, according to the GBI.
According to the GBI, seven people were arrested during the attack and charged with domestic terrorism and trespassing, with other charges pending. Their ages range from He’s 20 to He’s 34, and there are no Georgia residents.
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