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A protest in downtown Atlanta over a police shooting turned into a riot on Saturday nightas hooligans attacked the office tower home to the Atlanta Police Foundation, damaged other structures, and torched a police vehicle. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens told reporters police arrested six people — and some of the ones arrested had explosives

Along with three other buildings, rioters attacked 191 Peachtree Tower in the heart of Atlanta’s Hotel District (via CBRE)

The mayhem along famed Peachtree Street — in the heart of Atlanta’s hotel district and right next to the Ritz-Carlton — sent tourists scattering for safety. 

Masked rioters wearing the all-black uniform favored by Antifa used rocks, hammers, fireworks, and spray paint to lash out at 191 Peachtree, a 50-story office tower that Deloitte and many other tenants also use. Other buildings were damaged as the group smashed tall glass windows and revolving doors and painted anti-police slogans on the upscale buildings. 

Six were arrested, and police say they confiscated “explosive” devices, though it’s not clear if that’s a melodramatic description of fireworks. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens confirmed explosives were used in the attacks. He also said that “many of [those arrested] don’t even live in Atlanta or in the State of Georgia, and they don’t represent the voices of Atlanta.”

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said the rioters had bigger ambitions that cops thwarted:

“We can tell now, early in this investigation, this was not the focus tonight just to damage the windows of three buildings and set a police car on fire. The intent was to continue to do harm, and that did not happen.”

The violence capped a protest march along the street, as demonstrators railed against Wednesday’s fatal police shooting of a protestor who was among others trying to prevent the construction of an 85-acre, $90 million police and fire training facility on the city’s southeast side, which protestors have dubbed “Cop City.”  

Police say that the protestor refused to exit a tent on the wooded property where the facility is to be built, and then shot a Georgia State Patrol trooper with a 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, prompting other troopers to open fire. The trooper was hit in the abdomen but lived. Activists challenge the police account and characterize the killing as “murder.” 

The slain protestor was 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who was known among the “Stop Cop City” movement by the name “Tortuguita.” Associated Press helpfully tells us Teran was a “nonbinary person and used they/it pronouns.” He was among many others in approximately 25 campsites. 

The place where Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran died in a gunfire exchange with police (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)

In clearing the occupiers, police say they seized mortar-style fireworks, multiple-edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks, and a blow torch. Seven people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass. Notably, not a single one of them is a Georgia resident. 

Opponents of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center have been camped out on the property for months (Andy Ngo via Daily Mail)

In the wake of Teran’s death, a Twitter account called “Scenes from the Atlanta Forest” called for a “night of rage” on Friday, with “reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies.” The account is now suspended. Ahead of the protest, organizers distributed flyers that said, “Police killed a protester. Stand up. Fight back.”

Opponents say the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, which will include a gun range, a mock cityscape and a “burn building,” will harm black people and the environment. As Jasmine Burnett, organizing director of Community Movement Builder puts it

“They’re literally going to build a mock version of Atlanta to practice different urban warfare tactics. The purpose of this project is to be able to better surveil, better suppress and better prevent liberation movements that directly address the exploitation [of] black and working-class communities.”  

The project has garnered bonus outrage points for being situated on land that was previously home to a slave plantation and a prison farm.  

Two “Defend the Atlanta Forest” members and a truck they seized from a construction crew and destroyed (Jack Crosbie/Rolling Stone)

For months, opponents have camped out in tents and on platforms in trees, and built sloppy barricades on the property. Over that time, they’ve stolen and damaged a construction vehicle and thrown a Molotov cocktail at police. Wednesday’s police raid was meant to put a decidedly tardy end to all that. 

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