Georgia Charges 23 Protesters With Domestic Terrorism

Police say 'violent agitators' attacked future site of training center
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2023 6:50 PM CST
23 Face Domestic Terrorism Charges Over 'Cop City' Protests
This image provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows construction equipment it says was set on fire by a group protesting the planned public safety training center.   (Atlanta Police Department via AP)

The Atlanta Police Department says 23 people have been charged with domestic terrorism in connection with an attack on the future site of a training complex opponents have nicknamed "Cop City." Police say dozens of "violent agitators" used the cover of a peaceful protest to attack officers and construction vehicles at the proposed site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on Sunday, NBC reports. "They changed into black clothing, entered the construction area, and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers," police said. Some 35 people were detained.

Police say that out of the 23 charged with domestic terrorism, only two are from Georgia. One is from Canada, one is from France, and the others are from states all over the country, police said. Activist Kamau Franklin, however, tells CNN that most people at the protest were from the Atlanta area. "The language being used by police, calling those arrested ‘outside agitators,’ is meant to separate protesters and meant to criminalize and detach a movement from its homegrown origins," Franklin says. He says the arrests were "indiscriminate."

"The illegal actions of the agitators could have resulted in bodily harm," police said. "Officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to conduct arrests." Police said the domestic terrorism charges, which could carry a maximum sentence of 35 years, were filed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The site in a wooded area outside Atlanta has been targeted by protesters for months, with opponents including environmentalists concerned about the site and young anarchists who say the center will be used to train officers in "urban warfare," the AP reports. In January, protests spread to downtown Atlanta after 26-year-old environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, known as Tortuguita, was fatally shot during a police raid on a protest camp.

(More Atlanta stories.)

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