DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Their lives, their dream homes and their backyards– are right up next to “the woods,” the woods that have become an international cause to save.
Kareem Turner and his neighborhood off of Key Road in DeKalb County are at the heart of all the protests, violence, controversies– and noise.
Turner opposes building the Atlanta Police Training Center– called “Cop City” by protesters– in those woods.
But he agrees with DeKalb County’s CEO Michael Thurmond, who announced Friday his executive order closing the properties to the public, in the name of public safety.
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Turner said he believes the woods are too dangerous, now, and he wants the county to clear the protesters out.
"I am not in agreement with protesters, advocates, whatever you want to call them, I label 'domestic terrorists' doing things that is not civil to protest,” Turner said Friday, outside his home along the wood line. “There are ways to protest. And the means that they have gone about it, I am not in agreement with it.”
For many residents of the neighborhood, hiking in the woods and exploring the trails is part of their way of life.
They are living, they say, compatibly with protesters who have been camping there.
So to those residents, the government banning the public from “their” woods, all because the government claims that the protesters have made the properties too dangerous, is not the truth; and building the police training center there, they say, is a betrayal.
"The city had set its master plan five years ago, it was for all of that to be green space open to the public," said one resident, Sean Phillips. “And that’s what people were excited for. We use the trails, our friends and everyone have gone out there. And so if anyone has made it dangerous, it's the city who's announced now that they're going to build this thing there. Instead of following with the plan that they said they were going to have, and going against what 70 percent of public comment said."
There is skepticism among residents, about the government saying protesters are setting dangerous booby traps in the woods that could harm residents, who hike back in there.
"I mean, I don't think they're setting traps for residents who go in there,” said a resident who asked that his name not be used. “I think that's more so for the police when they go in there. I think it's important that we make a clear distinction between who's in danger. And I don't feel in danger as a resident. I don't feel endangered by them vocalizing their concerns with what they feel strongly about."
As it is, they are all neighbors to an international focus of protest, and they are all, for now, shut out of their own “backyard.”