The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has announced the arrest and charging of seven people with domestic terrorism, following a fatal shooting and an incident where a Georgia state trooper was shot near a proposed Atlanta police training facility.
Activists have given the facility, which is estimated to cost $90 million and span 85 acres, the name “Cop City”.
Members of the local movement “Stop Cop City” had been camping out in the forest in an effort to halt construction, and it was during an operation to remove people from the area on Wednesday morning that gunfire was exchanged, according to GBI Director Mike Register. He stated that law enforcement personnel “returned fire in self-defense”, after an individual unexpectedly shot a Georgia State Patrol Trooper. A later release from the GBI said officers had located a man inside a tent in the woods at about 9am and that when he had failed to comply with verbal commands, he had shot the trooper, leading to other officers returning fire.
Kei Diliza, from nearby Gresham Park, said that reports from other members near the site conflicted with the account provided by law enforcement. “Stop Cop City” said in an emailed statement that the operation had begun with armed police pointing guns into the park, and that over one hundred neighbours and organisers had gathered at the DeKalb County Courthouse on Monday to demand an end to police repression.
In the wake of the clearing operation, 25 campsites were reportedly removed and weapons such as fireworks, edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks and a blow torch were found. The seven people arrested are said to be from out-of-state.
In the past, the proposed facility has been the location of several violent occurrences. Last year, five individuals were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism when activists and protestors clashed over the site’s development. Furthermore, in May, eight protesters were apprehended after a Molotov cocktail was lobbed at police who were attempting to get rid of them from the area.
Last month, five more people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism after police attempted to move barricades at the entrances to the site.
The Atlanta Police Foundation has declared that the center is necessary to improve morale and recruitment of law enforcement, as the former facilities used by law enforcement were inadequate. The facility will comprise of a shooting range, a mock city, and a burning building.
At a Wednesday press conference, Register said that in the midst of nationwide conversations about reforming police forces, constructing a new center to “educate police officers to be effective in engaging with the community is a great thing for the community.”
The individual who passed away Wednesday has been identified as Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, 26, according to the GBI. Activists related to a group protesting the site said Teran was a “Forest Defender,” working to oppose environmental racism. Local justice groups released a joint statement saying Teran, recognized as Tortuguita and who identifies as nonbinary, was a “kind, warm, very intelligent and caring” person.
The man died on the spot, as indicated by the release. A handgun and shell casings were gathered from the scene, the GBI mentioned.
The wounded trooper was carried to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment, and as per the Georgia Department of Public Safety, was in stable condition Thursday.