Atlanta mayor says 'bad actors' have caused $10M worth of damage in connection to APSTC

The Atlanta Police Department held a press conference Wednesday to discuss "targeted attacks by extremists" opposed to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center (APSTC).

According to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, the various attacks on construction companies associated with the building of the training center and local law enforcement has resulted in at least $10 million worth of damage. 

"These are not MLK versions of peaceful, nonviolent protest," Mayor Andre Dickens said. "To the contrary, these are arsons, vandals, they are destructive." 

Mayor Dickens says there are better ways to voice an opinion than with violence. 

"Reasonable minds know how to communicate, destructive minds do these types of things that we're seeing," he said. 

Dickens emphasized that the people who are behind the vandalism and arson are not peaceful protesters and Dickens wants the community to be aware of what they are dealing with. Dickens says the "bad actors" do not care about the safety of metro Atlanta residents in the future or in the present.

According to Dickens, the attacks have taken place all over the metro area, including at construction sites, a youth center, near affordable housing, and at a stable for police horses. 

Dickens also said that the construction companies that have been attacked are still involved with the project and are not backing down. Construction is on schedule and will be completed by the end of the year and there will be a ribbon cutting, according to Dickens. 

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum also spoke. 

"Anarchists aren’t going to win in Atlanta, Georgia," said Chief Schierbaum.

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum says last month the group broke into an Atlanta Police facility and lured one of APD’s horses out. 

 "When they took credit for this, they're asking other individuals to do the exact same thing, to join them in an effort to identify what police facilities are vulnerable and to become creative in attacking them," he said. 

Recent incidents include protesters chaining themselves to construction equipment belonging to companies that also work on the training center in Midtown Atlanta and the vandalism of construction vehicles in downtown Atlanta.

"They’re in an effort not only just to degrade the city's safety in the future, they're trying to degrade the city's safety now," Schierbaum said. 

On Tuesday, a fire was also set at a construction site in Fayetteville belonging to a contractor at the training center. At the time, police said they did not know if it was connected to the training center. 


Debate around the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center  

Protests against the training center have been happening for more than two years. 

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and other supporters say the 85-acre, $90 million facility would replace inadequate training facilities and would help address difficulties in hiring and retaining police officers. Opponents have expressed concern that it could lead to greater police militarization and that its construction in the South River Forest will worsen environmental damage in a poor, majority-Black area.

Protests against the project, which have at times resulted in violence and vandalism, escalated after the fatal shooting in January 2023 of 26-year-old protester Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, known as Tortuguita.