In a tense confrontation on Monday, police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse a march aiming to thwart the construction of a police and firefighter training center in suburban DeKalb County, just beyond Atlanta’s city limits.
The march, involving over 500 participants, covered approximately 2 miles from a park to the construction site.
A segment of the marchers donned in masks, goggles, and chemical suits as a precaution against tear gas confronted officers in riot gear at the entrance of the training center site.
Following a pushback from officers, tear gas was deployed, resulting in a protester tossing a canister back at the police. While some demonstrators retreated from the clash, others attempted to alleviate the effects of the tear gas.
Numerous protesters sought refuge in the woods on the property, joining hands and eventually exiting. The overall retreat occurred without apparent arrests, with reported incidents limited to vomiting and irritation caused by the tear gas.
Law enforcement, including the DeKalb County police department and Georgia state troopers, secured the site with armored vehicles. Protesters labeled the event as “Block Cop City,” with solidarity demonstrations taking place nationwide.
The protest is part of a larger movement uniting environmentalists and police abolitionists, vehemently opposing the construction, reflecting concerns of police militarization and environmental degradation in the predominantly Black and economically challenged South River Forest area.
The proposed 85-acre, $90 million facility, championed by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and supporters, is intended to replace inadequate training facilities, aiding police recruitment and retention.
However, opponents argue it could exacerbate police militarization while worsening environmental damage in the area.
During the march, some protesters aimed to reclaim the wooded area, including the construction site and adjacent park, where activists had camped for months until a police eviction in January.
The eviction resulted in the fatal shooting of protester Manuel Esteban Paez Terán. Although prosecutors decided against pursuing charges in connection with Paez Terán’s death, his parents addressed the crowd during Monday’s march.
The resistance against the construction has led to violence and vandalism at times, with prosecutors now characterizing the protest movement as a conspiracy.
Indictments in August included racketeering charges against several individuals already facing charges related to the protests.
Notably, more than three dozen people previously charged with domestic terrorism were among the defendants.
Others included leaders of a bail fund facing money laundering accusations and activists charged with felony intimidation.
The charges stem from distributing flyers that labeled a state trooper a “murderer” for his involvement in Paez Terán’s death. RICO charges, carrying a sentence of five to 20 years, could be added to penalties for underlying acts.