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Dozens face domestic terrorism charges after ‘agitators’ allegedly attack police training site dubbed ‘Cop City’

Attack on 'Cop City'

This is a still frame of a video that police released showing an attack on the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, which protesters dubbed “Cop City.” Police slapped dozens with domestic terrorism charges for allegedly torching police and construction equipment.

Dozens of people face domestic terrorism charges after “violent agitators” allegedly infiltrated a protest of a police training center site dubbed “Cop City.”

The suspects threw “large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks” at authorities and construction equipment, torching the site, authorities say.

“The agitators destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment by fire and vandalism,” the Atlanta Police Department (APD) wrote in a press release. “Multiple law enforcement agencies deployed to the area and detained several people committing illegal activity.”

Police have arrested 35 people, who were mostly — though not all — from out of state.

'Cop City' mugshots

‘Cop City’ mugshots (via DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office)

“The illegal actions of the agitators could have resulted in bodily harm,” the press release states. “Officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to conduct arrests.”

On Twitter, the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” movement emphasized that nobody was hurt in the attack.

“Not a single human or animal was hurt in the liberation of the forest today, yet APD just gave permission for SWAT to deploy with automatic rifles,” the group tweeted.

The group also disputed that everyone arrested was linked to the attack on the construction site.

“It’s important to note that the the 35 people that police arrested tonight were not ‘violent agitators,’ but peaceful concert goers who were nowhere near the demonstration,” the group posted in a separate tweet.

The arrests fell during the second day of what the group described as its “Week of Action” in opposing the construction of a $90 million police training facility to be built at the Old Atlanta Prison Farm site under a lease agreement with the city. Activists say that the 85-acre complex will destroy broad swaths of the South River (Weelaunee) Forest, which they call the “Lungs of Atlanta.”

Deforestation would lead to “flooding and unmitigated heatwaves in a predominantly Black, working-class neighborhood in south Atlanta,” the activists say.

This isn’t the first protest action of its kind that ended in more than a dozen arrests.

In December and January, police cleared a forest site where protesters had camped for more than a year, arresting at least 14 people on domestic terrorism charges, according to local NBC station WXIA-TV, known locally as 11Alive. Police fatally shot activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Teran during the December stand-off with protestors, claiming Paez Teran shot at them first. The activist’s family disputes that assertion.

Authorities say that they’ll be monitoring future demonstrations.

“With protests planned for the coming days, the Atlanta Police Department, in collaboration with law enforcement partners, have a multi-layered strategy that includes reaction and arrest,” their press release states, calling for demonstrations to remain “peaceful.”

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."