ATLANTA – Hundreds of activists broke into the site of a proposed police and fire training center in a tree-lined suburb of Atlanta on Sunday, torched police and construction vehicles and a trailer, and set off fireworks at officers stationed nearby.
The destruction was halted at the end of an organized protest against what protesters have derided as Cop City, a planned 85-acre complex that would include classrooms and an amphitheater and areas where city police officers can simulate shootouts and high-speed chases. Firefighters can learn to drive fire trucks and battle bells. It was not immediately known if anyone was injured.
Tensions between police officers and protesters have increased in recent months along city-owned forest land. Environmentalists want the forest, which covers more than 1,000 acres, to be preserved as one of the region’s most important green spaces. Other activists are concerned that development of the training base will help increase the militarization of local police forces.
In January, 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Páez Terran died and a state trooper was seriously injured in clashes as police cleared protesters from the woods.
On Sunday, many of the demonstrators – a small group rather than several hundred protesters who stayed in the area where the music was playing – took root as they dressed in black and camouflage, covered their faces, and made their way through tall grass and mud to the construction site. Small fences along the way. As vehicles were torched, the police watched, first not intervening, then moving in and making arrests.
An Atlanta Police Department helicopter hovered overhead. Minutes later, the protesters returned to the area where they had gathered since Saturday, where live music blared over loudspeakers.
A plan for the site in DeKalb County was approved by the Atlanta City Council in 2021. The proposed fire and police training center would include classrooms, an amphitheater, a shooting range and a “A mock city for real-world training.” The cost of the center is estimated at $90 million, and the Atlanta Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is raising most of it.
Activists against the development kicked off a week of action on Saturday with a rally, a march through the South River Forest and a music and arts festival.