State and city officials have made statements in response to Sunday’s violent activities at the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
On Sunday afternoon, what started as a peaceful music festival to protest against the proposed facility, turned into a violent, fiery evening.
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Atlanta police said a group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest to conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers.
APD said more than 100 protesters changed into black clothing and entered the construction area and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers.
Governor Brian Kemp made a statement and posted it on Twitter Monday morning. In his statement, Kemp says the violent activists chose destruction and vandalism.
Atlanta police said there was destruction to construction equipment at the site and in one of the videos posted on Facebook by APDyou can see flames in different parts of the site.
Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Sean Waites also issued a statement on the violent activity at the proposed site.
Waites said she is deeply saddened by all of the violent activity surrounding the proposed training facility. Her full statement reads as follows:
Like so many Atlantans and activists, I am deeply saddened and troubled by the violent protest activity taking place at the proposed public safety training facility that left a protester dead, a police officer wounded by gunfire, attacks on law enforcement officials and the destruction of property that has divided our city. For the record, the proposed facility location and vote preceded my election to the Atlanta City Council. To date, I have received thousands of emails, phone calls, have been contacted by many constituents and advocates who are opposed to the project and many who are in support of the proposed project. Still, there is no question we have reached a crisis point that resulted in unacceptable violence, the death of a protestor, and the unlawful destruction of property.
The First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the freedom of assembly – or protest – are sacrosanct under the US Constitution. However, protests that turn violent and destructive are not protected and raise heightened community-wide public safety concerns that require our police and first responders to act to restore safety and order.
Under no circumstances do I condone violence during protest activity. Although, I understand the public safety training facility is a complex, sensitive, and emotional topic, we cannot resort to violence and unlawful behavior. Considering the protesters are from various groups, other states, and maybe even other countries, I am concerned that the plans of legitimate peaceful protesters may have been hijacked. For this reason, I am asking all protesters to use restraint, as illegal activity detracts from the arguments. Given the recent attacks on law enforcement and destruction of property, we cannot hear meaningful concerns about the acts of violence and destruction. Their recommendations are muted by unlawful and violent actions of a few.
Moreover, protests that involve criminal trespass are not protected and often require law enforcement action where civil and diplomatic actions have failed. There are also many channels for those who are in opposition to a City project to voice their concerns, propose alternatives and legislative amendments, and organize to have it repealed, including peaceful protest.
I also empathize with the neighbors who live near South River Forrest who have been directly impacted by the proposed facility as well as the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line each day to protect our city especially as violence is escalating nationally and in our city. In summary, I applaud and support efforts by Mayor Dickens and his administration to create a Community Advisory Council to provide community and stakeholder input, in addition to the goal of addressing environmental concerns that have been raised.
Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Sean Waites in response to training facility violence
The Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Mike Register spoke with Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne on Monday evening and said he does not refer to the demonstrators as protesters.
Register said that state, federal and local investigators led by the GBI will fold what happened Sunday around the site into an investigation underway for months into dozens of acts tied to opposition to the new training center.
As a result, 23 have been charged in what police are calling a “coordinated attack.”
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