Police: Dozens arrested after violent protest at Atlanta public training center’s future site

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 7:22 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 12:07 PM CST
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (Atlanta News First/Gray News) - Police have charged 23 people with domestic terrorism after violence erupted at the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility Sunday night in DeKalb County.

The Atlanta Police Department said the incident was a coordinated attack against law enforcement.

Officials said around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, a group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers. They changed into black clothing and entered the construction area and began throwing large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers.

The agitators destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment by fire and vandalism. Multiple law enforcement agencies deployed to the area and detained several people committing illegal activity. Officials say 35 agitators have been detained so far.

The Atlanta Police Department released surveillance video from where construction is underway for the training site. In the videos, you can see police scurrying to close the gates, and agitators throwing dangerous items at officers.

The following were charged with domestic terrorism; the GBI is the charging agency:

  • Jack Beaman, GA
  • Ayla King, MA
  • Kamryn Pipes, LA
  • Maggie Gates, IN
  • Ehret Nottingham, CO
  • Alexis Paplai, MA
  • Timothy Bilodeau, MA
  • Victor Puertas, UT
  • Dimitri LeNy, France
  • Amin Chaoui, VA
  • James Marsicano, NC
  • Samuel Ward, AZ
  • Max Biederman, AZ
  • Mattia Luini, NY
  • Emma Bogush, CT
  • Kayley Meissner, WI
  • Luke Harper, FL
  • Grace Martin, WI
  • Colin Dorsey, ME
  • Robert-Paul Fredrique, Canada
  • Zoe Larmey, TN
  • Thomas Jurgens, GA
  • Priscilla Grim, NY

Activists have been protesting the planning and construction of the proposed Atlanta police training center, which they refer to as “Cop City,” for months now. Protests escalated after the death of activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán on Jan. 18. Officials later said Terán first shot and hit a state trooper before other troopers shot and killed him as part of an operation to clear the property of illegal campers.

Protesters say they are going to be at the site all week long. The forest defenders were in the area holding an event as part of a “week of action” running through March 11.

With protests planned for the coming days, the Atlanta Police Department, in collaboration with law enforcement partners, says it has a multi-layered strategy that includes reaction and arrest. They are asking for this week’s protests to remain peaceful.

None of the officers were hurt during Sunday’s incident, but the Atlanta Police chief says officers had to use non-lethal enforcement to take some people into custody, many of whom are not from Atlanta.

The chief addressed the public about what occurred Sunday night, saying this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

“When it’s a legitimate protest you have the full protection of the Atlanta Police Department. This is not a protest. This is criminal activity, and the charges that will be brought forth will show that. When you throw commercial-grade fireworks, Molotov cocktails, large rocks, your only intent is to harm,” Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said.