ATLANTA - Police said officers arrested multiple people who allegedly threw rocks and an apparent "Molotov cocktail" at law enforcement during demonstrations Tuesday afternoon at the site of a proposed Atlanta Police Department training facility. Protestors denied attacking officers, saying police were intimidating them and suppressed their right to free speech.
Atlanta Police Department Assistant Chief Darin Schierbaum said no one was injured when someone threw a "glass container with an accelerant inside and a crude ignition device." Police detained eight people on charges range from criminal trespass and obstruction of a law enforcement officer, Schierbaum said. He said demonstrators, the majority whom have out-of-state drivers licenses, were throwing rocks at officers before someone allegedly threw the explosive.
Police said the Molotov cocktail was lit and caused a small fire. Police someone threw another lit Molotov cocktail at officers hours later.
Marlon Kautz, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Solidarity Fund said he didn't have any information about someone throwing a Molotov cocktail at law enforcement and claimed there was "no evidence."
"We will not be deterred by the acts of a few that do not represent our community, and our community values and were attempting to harm first responders today," Schierbaum said.
Police said anyone who remained on the site would be arrested.
Police closed a nearby road. SKYFOX 5 flew over the scene and saw a person cuffed near a DeKalb County Police Department vehicle. Atlanta Police Department vehicles as well as Georgia State Patrol were at the scene. Schierbaum said the FBI is participating in an investigation of attempts to "intimidate" in regard to the construction of new public safety training centers in Georgia and other states.
Police said this started when officers were asked to escort contraction workers through the site. The officers were there due to previous encounters with protesters.
FOX 5 have requested the body cam video of the incident.
No one was injured.
The ‘forest defenders’ hold ongoing protest
Some people who call themselves "forest defenders" have been camping on the site since last year. Police said they have been sabotaging construction efforts and the protesters have claimed they have driven spikes into trees to make them hazardous to cut down.
"This is an attempt to demoralize a vibrant and diverse movement that is led by local community members against the replacement of the largest urban tree canopy in the United States the largest police training compound in the United States," said Mae Johns who lives near the site.
Over the last month, the group has protested at company contracted to build the training facility and even its CEO's home. Last week, police in Cobb County arrested two protesters for vandalizing the office of one of the building contractors involved in the project.
Over the weekend, the activist said officers charges at them for no reason while protesting in the streets near Freedom Park.
Multiple people in the group identified themselves as Georgia residents.
What is the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement?
Protestors oppose "the expansion of the police state" and said the Atlanta Police Foundation is threatening the Atlanta forest. Tuesday's protest was one of several on the property recently. There was a protest at Inman Park where people were arrested "with extreme force," according to Kautz.
"We are not extremest, we are neighbors of the forest, residents of south Atlanta, most importantly, we are intelligent people who know the future of the world is on fire," Mae Johnson, who said she lives in neighborhood near "Cop City."
She said the "Stop Cop City" movement has broad support because of the environmental impact the forest has on the city. City council members said they would be planting hundreds more trees for each tree that would be cut down.
Demonstrator loaded into a cop car at the site of "cop city" in DeKalb County. (FOX 5 Atlanta)
Activists with the "Stop Cop City" movement, said that the training facility will neither help the city’s crime problem nor fractured relations between police and Black and brown communities.
The former Atlanta prison farm and a proposed police training facility.
Plans for Atlanta police’s new training facility
The Atlanta City Council approved a new state-of-the-art academy on 85 acres of a 300-acre site owned by the city last September.
The land would be leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation which would use roughly $80 million of its own money to build the training campus that would be for both police and firefighters. The city could kick in another $30 million. The 30-year lease would cost about $1 million annually.
Plans include a miniature "mock city" for police to practice in, an emergency vehicle driving course, a burn tower, and a shooting range. A police firing range is already located on a piece of the property.
Rendering of proposed training facility for police and first responders in part of Atlanta located in DeKalb County.
The property was part of the long-abandoned Atlanta prison farm. The landfill is to the north and the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center is to the south. Blackhall Studios and an Amazon warehouse are also nearby. High-power lines cross the 300 acres.
The plan was approved under the previous city council and mayor. It also had the support of Gov. Brian Kemp.
Once complete, the facility would nearly two-and-a-half times larger than the NYPD’s training facility in College Point, Queens.
The remaining 265-acres adjacent to the facility would remain as green space.
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The Associated Press contributed to the report.