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Activists against 'Cop City' hold vigil for protester who was shot, killed after shooting a state trooper

Close to 200 activists came out to Little Five Points on a rainy Wednesday night after a protester was shot and killed after shooting a state trooper.

ATLANTA — Tensions are building among a group of activists who are against the development of the City of Atlanta's Public Safety Training Center and law enforcement agencies who are trying to clear the future site of trespassers. 

On Wednesday morning, a joint task force made up of the following agencies, GBI, Atlanta Police Department, Georgia Attorney General’s Office, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, Georgia State Patrol, FBI, DeKalb County Police Department, Department of Natural Resources, and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) were conducting an operation to identify people who are trespassing and committing crimes on the property made up of metro Atlanta's largest remaining urban forest. 

Credit: WXIA

The GBI said as law enforcement was moving through the property, officers found a man inside a tent in the woods. The GBI said officers gave verbal commands to the man who did not comply and shot a Georgia State Patrol Trooper. The GBI said other law enforcement officers returned fire, hitting and killing the man. The trooper underwent surgery and was in the ICU as of Wednesday night. 

Credit: Provided by GBI

About nine hours after the shootout, close to 200 activists came together in Little Five Points at the intersection of Moreland Avenue and Euclid. The people, who are living in the woods in protest of the new development, have called themselves 'Forest Defenders.' The vigil was to remember the Forest Defender who died in the forest. As candles were lit, several activists spoke out against the clearing of the land, police, and the new development. 

One of the activists, who didn't identify himself, or what group he was with said, "There is no peaceful resolution as long as their end goal is to destroy the forest."

Credit: WXIA

The future site of the new training facility that is now forest land has been dubbed by the protesters as "Cop City." It's off Key Road. 

The Forest Defenders have been in and out of the area protesting over the last two years. And on Wednesday night, the activists 11Alive spoke to said, "This is not over."

During the vigil, some of the activists marched out onto Moreland Avenue and blocked traffic, as they chanted profanity against the police. The activists blocked the intersection for about 10-15 minutes before moving down Euclid towards Piedmont park. 

Credit: WXIA

On the other side of the issue are those who believe the city needs a training facility. 11Alive reached out to Charles Rambo, a retired lieutenant with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office and currently a training instructor, about the facility and the pushback. 

"We're living in an area that has called for police reform, more accountability and more transparency and better training. This is the perfect example where we need facilities to be able to perform that training for good policing. But at the same time, let's not confuse militarization into law enforcement because we are still responsible for protecting life and liberty, especially in opportunities where they may be a threat to persons' lives. So, I mean, we have the training in all facets to be better prepared to serve our communities," Rambo explained.

Rambo believes it might get to the point where the governor's office gets involved to resolve the issue. 

"I believe that in some instances you may have to step in with the sovereignty of the state to squarely and legitimately deal with this," he said. "Particularly to make sure when you're dealing with these types of groups, they're dealing a lot with their sovereign rights and fundamental rights. And these are things that are covered under the state sovereign immunity, as well as the state's authority to act."

The GBI said they arrested four people following the shooting during their operation to clear out trespassers. Those individuals have not been identified. The name of the man shot and killed after shooting the trooper has also not been released.

Activists at Wednesday night's vigil said there are still Forest Defenders in the forest. As for what's next, law enforcement is expected to announce in the coming days how they plan to remove the remaining trespassers on the site. 

Activists are planning a march in response to the shooting on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 5 p.m. at Underground ATL.


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