'Stop Cop City' vandals target Atlanta police SWAT property, officials say

Vandals attempted to break in to a highly-sensitive Atlanta police office, according to officials.

Investigators believed a group called "Stop Cop City" may be behind the unlawful act.

On Saturday night, Michael Bond, a councilman and member of the public safety panel, said vandals used cut tree limbs to break through the fencing that protects the SWAT office and accompanying buildings where special equipment is stored.

"This group that claims to want to protect trees cut down trees to use as weapons," the city leader said.

Those trespassers damaged the SWAT property, but did not get inside.

The office is part of the DeKalb County site where the Atlanta Police Department is planning to construct an expanded public safety training complex. Opponents have dubbed it "Cop City."

For at least two years, demonstrators have opposed placing police facilities there.

"This goes beyond protesting," said Councilman Bond. "The city needs a strong response."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department said new security measures will be taken to protect the property better.

What is ‘Cop City?’  

Atlanta City Council approved a proposal to lease forested land in unincorporated DeKalb County to the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a training facility for police and first responders.

City council tabled a vote on a controversial state-of-the-art training facility on Aug. 16, stating public engagement on the matter was poorly executed.

The Atlanta Police Foundation plans to fund and build a new facility on 85 acres and preserve the remaining portion of the 265-acres property as green space, which is currently not accessible to the public.

What is the ‘Stop Cop City’ movement?  

Protesters oppose "the expansion of the police state" and said the Atlanta Police Foundation is threatening the Atlanta forest.

"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 a 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.

Supporters of the movement have held several protests, including one in October in Little Five Points. During a protest earlier this year at Inman Park, protesters said they were arrested "with extreme force," which they said proves law enforcement needs to be reformed.

Protesters said they want more probes into allegations of police brutality that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, instead of investigations of protesters.

Tensions between ‘Stop Cop City’ protesters and police  

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Atlanta Police Department confirm they are part of the multi-agency probe into the activity around what opponents call "Cop City."

The planned facility, sitting along Key Road in DeKalb County’s South River Forest, is at the center of a bitter and drawn-out battle. Numerous groups oppose what they see as an overreach of a police state into the Atlanta woodlands.

The site and nearby the Boulderwalk neighborhood have been flash points. In September, flames torched construction equipment across the street from Boulderwalk. This past summer, vandals destroyed surveillance cameras in the neighborhood and set fire to a truck of a nearby landowner in separate incidents. A tech sent to fix those cameras reported being fired upon.

Video released by Atlanta police shows someone throwing what investigators describe as "Molotov cocktails" at officers along Key Road, which borders the project.

Earlier this year, the officers of Brasfield & Gorrie, the firm contracted to design and build the Atlanta police department’s new training facility, has been the target of vandals. Their main offices in Birmingham, Alabama, had several broken windows, paint splashed on its sign and graffiti painted on a window that said: "Drop Cop City or Else." The company claimed vandals committed $80,000 in damages, including several broken windows, paint splashed on its sign and graffiti.

Organizers said rallies and protests will continue in their attempt to get the plans scrapped for the new training facility, but as of now the Atlanta Police Foundation still plans to build it.

Atlanta police are offering a $25,000 reward for tips that lead investigators to those responsible for the continued crimes committed in protest of the so-called "Cop City" project.