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Home » 6 Taken into Custody after Protests over ‘Cop City’ and Death of Activist by Police

6 Taken into Custody after Protests over ‘Cop City’ and Death of Activist by Police

22 January 2023, Sunday
Six individuals were taken into custody Saturday night in Atlanta city centre, according to the authorities, amid protests ramping up following the endorsement of a law enforcement training centre and the death of an activist due to a police shooting incident earlier in the week.

On Saturday evening, a group of demonstrators marched in a tranquil manner down a major Atlanta avenue. However, some within the assembly later began to commit unlawful actions, for example, shattering windows and assaulting police vehicles. Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum reported this development in a news conference.

Police apprehended six individuals and ongoing investigations are looking into if more were involved in any unlawful acts, the police chief declared. He also mentioned that several businesses had their windows ruined.

The demonstrations were initiated due to a $90 million, 85-acre police training facility, which has been disparagingly called "Cop City" by its adversaries. This comes not long after the fatal shooting of a 26-year-old militant near the planned training facility.

Saturday, a multitude of people were apprehended in response to protests against the planned public safety training center in Atlanta. According to Deputy Police Chief Charles Schierbaum, some of the arrested have already displayed criminal behavior in relation to the facility.

Mayor Andre Dickens made a statement regarding the apprehension, saying, “To those seeking to continue this type of misconduct, my message is clear: We will find you, we will apprehend you, and you will face the consequences.” He went on to emphasize that he had voted in favor of the construction of the training center earlier this year. 

As Schierbaum put it, “The Police Department will not stand by and allow anyone to illicitly interfere with or threaten any project or development approved by the people of Atlanta.” He also warned that those found partaking in criminal activity, such as obstructing the development of the center, will be punished accordingly.

In a news conference on Saturday, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields discussed the arrest of over 50 individuals who had participated in the protests in the wake of George Floyd's death. Shields stated that the individuals arrested were charged with crimes that included “vandalism, inciting a riot, blocking the streets, and possession of explosive devices.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also chimed in on Twitter, saying “violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest. They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be prosecuted fully.”

Chief Shields added that many of those arrested were from out of state, and some were found with explosives.

The fatal shooting of an activist by police occurred Wednesday morning, while a force was clearing the area of the future facility which had been the site of protests by opponents of its construction. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, officers spotted an individual in a tent in the woods and issued verbal commands. However, the individual failed to obey and instead fired at a Georgia State Patrol Trooper.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) reported that a member of the state's law enforcement was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with an individual at a construction site near Valdosta. Following the shooting, the individual was declared dead at the scene.

A handgun found at the individual's possession matched the projectile from the trooper's wound. The deceased was identified as Manuel Esteban Paez Terán.

Despite the official report of the incident, activists linked to various movements opposed to the construction site have disputed the account given by law enforcement. They have claimed that Terán was a "forest defender" campaigning against environmental racism. Justice groups in the area have said that Terán, who went by the nickname of 'Tortuguita' and identified themselves as nonbinary, was a "sweet, warm, very smart and caring" person.

Belkis Terán expressed her anger and powerlessness in the wake of her son's death to on Saturday night. Terán, speaking from Panama City, Panama, expressed her doubt of the story told by law enforcement, that her son had shot first. “I know they said he shot first, but I don’t believe it," she said. "He was attacked.”

Belkis Terán, mother of environmental activist and conservationist Tortuguita, said that while the law enforcement claims that her son had a gun, she was not aware of it and believes it was only for protecting himself against the wildlife in the area. She emphasized that her son was a pacifist, and that he would never harm or kill an animal.

Mrs Terán said that Tortuguita was a sweet soul from a young age and always had a generous nature, reflected in their commitment to turtle conservation.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety has revealed that a trooper was taken to a local hospital for surgery on Wednesday night and is currently in stable condition. To protect the trooper from any potential retaliation, the department has chosen not to release their identity.

During the clearing operation conducted on the same day, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reported the discovery of approximately 25 campsites and the arrest of seven individuals who were charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass. Among the items found and removed were mortar-style fireworks, edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks and a blow torch.

The Atlanta Police Foundation has expressed the need for a training center to help bolster morale and recruitment efforts, citing past law enforcement facilities as substandard. Despite the project envisioning a shooting range, mock city, and burn building, there has been considerable backlash from critics who view the center as a response to 2020 police brutality and racial injustice protests. While city leaders acknowledge the facility will aid in police reform, no further specifics have been provided.

Some citizens have accused Atlanta of failing to adequately inform and involve the neighborhood regarding the construction of a new sports training facility. The project's total cost will be approximately $30 million, the majority of which will be supplied by the city with additional support coming from private donations. Activists, however, have voiced their worries regarding the environmental consequences of the endeavor, as the facility may destroy a large portion of forested land, severing a prospective chain of joined green spaces across Atlanta and DeKalb County.
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