ATLANTA (AP) — Five people were arrested Tuesday on charges including domestic terrorism as authorities tried to remove the protesters from the site of a planned public safety training center, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
The arrests happened as agents from the GBI, Atlanta police officers, and other state and local law enforcement officers removed barricades blocking some entrances to the site, the GBI said in a news release.
Opponents of the training center have been protesting for months by building platforms in surrounding trees and camping out at the site to prevent construction. They say that the $90 million project, which would be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, involves cutting down so many trees that it would be environmentally damaging. They also oppose investing so much money in what they call “Cop City," which they say will be used to practice “urban warfare.”
The 85-acre property is owned by the city of Atlanta but is located just outside the city limits in unincorporated DeKalb County, and includes a former state prison farm.
Prior to Tuesday's arrests, police had arrested several people in recent months because of “ongoing criminal activity” at the site, including carjacking, destruction of property, arson, and attacks on public safety officials, the GBI said.
Several protesters threw rocks at police cars and attacked EMTs outside neighboring fire stations with rocks and bottles on Tuesday, the GBI said. Once the area was cleared, police found explosive devices, gasoline and road flairs, the release says.
In an email to news outlets, opponents of the training facility said that police used “extreme and unjustified measures” against them, including “tear gas canisters and pepper bullets."
The Atlanta City Council voted in September 2021 to lease the land to the Atlanta Police Foundation. The training center would include a shooting range, classrooms, a mock village, an emergency vehicle driving course, stables for police horses, and a “burn building” for firefighters to practice putting out fires. The vote came after weeks of protest from people who oppose the complex.
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