By Rich McKay
ATLANTA (Reuters) – Two dozen people face domestic terrorism charges in Atlanta after they were arrested during violent clashes between officers and protesters at a police training center construction site, authorities said on Monday.
The 23 people who face charges were part of a group detained on Sunday by police who said they launched bricks, rocks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at officers after they breached the construction site, where a new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is being built.
Only two of the people listed on the Atlanta Police Department website are from Georgia. The remainder were from other states, including three from Massachusetts and two from Wisconsin. One person is from Canada while another is from France, according to police.
It is unclear if any of the people have been formally charged by the DeKalb County District Attorney, whose office was not immediately available for comment.
Surveillance camera footage of the incident provided by the City of Atlanta Police Department showed what appeared to be police officers trying to lock a gate as fireworks exploded around them. Other video clips showed protesters throwing rocks over a fence, several small fires burning at the site and heavy construction equipment on fire.
“We will not rest until those who use violence and intimidation for an extremist end are brought to full justice,” Governor Brian Kemp said in a statement on Monday.
The site, derisively called “Cop City” by opponents, has been the scene of escalating confrontation as demonstrators oppose both the increasing militarization of police and the development of the forest that its defenders call the “lungs of Atlanta.”
The police and fire training center is being built on 85 acres (34.4 hectares) of a 400-acre property in unincorporated DeKalb County that is owned by the city, according to the facility’s website.
It is within the larger South River Forest, also known as the Weelaunee Forest. Opponents of the site say they want to save an important green space near the greater Atlanta metropolitan area of 6 million people.
Sunday’s events began with a music festival that was part of a week of demonstrations against the construction and in support of police reforms. Hundreds of people attended Sunday’s events, and a group broke off from the concert to start a protest.
With more activities planned in coming days, Atlanta police said they and other law-enforcement agencies had “multi-layered strategy that includes reaction and arrest.”
The site was subject to a protest in January that briefly turned violent as demonstrators set a police car on fire and smashed windows of buildings. Demonstrators at that time gathered to protest the law enforcement killing of an activist during a raid to clear the construction site.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Matthew Lewis)