Breaking News
More () »

City Council responds to fiery protests over Atlanta public safety training center

City leaders say communication, compromise are the only way forward

ATLANTA — Tensions remain high after more than 20 protesters were arrested following an evening where some activists threw a number of objects at police officers and set construction equipment on fire. The protests are tied to the future site of the Atlanta public safety training center.

Police officers were posted throughout Atlanta City Hall all of Monday out of precaution. Passionate protesters conveyed their concerns before City Council, as they have for months, about the training center. 

City Councilman Michael Julian Bond, who serves on the public safety committee, told 11Alive additional officers would monitor the future public safety training site and that the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office is authorizing them to patrol and protect the land there. 

"It doesn't hurt us. It doesn't hurt the building owners," Bond said. "If they have insurance, we can buy another police car. It hurts their movement. Their message gets lost in the violence."

Atlanta Police said a week of planned protests erupted in violence Sunday at the site. Chief Darin Schierbaum called it an "escalation" of previous protests and told City Council police would hold those who perpetrate violence accountable. The Georgia Department of Public Safety said a group of activists used tires and other debris to set up roadblocks and threw Molotov cocktails, fireworks, rocks and bricks at police officers. 

RELATED: Protesters burn construction equipment, throw explosives at police at Atlanta public safety training site

"We, as elected officials, have an obligation to our employees to provide them the best places to work, the best equipment to have to work on behalf of the citizens who put us where we are," Bond said. “If you want your message to really be heard, you’ve got to cut the folks out who want to cause chaos, anarchy and harm. It’s hurting their cause. There’s no movement that has been successful in this country that has resulted out of violence.” 

Tension had grown after law enforcement shot and killed a protester at the site, widely known as "Cop City," in December. In January, a group of protesters vandalized businesses in Downtown Atlanta and burned an Atlanta Police vehicle.  

Many opposed to the site argues it underscores the militarization of police, disrupts the environment and is cumbersome for longtime residents near the site. Schierbaum noted that most of those arrested Sunday night were from out of state. 

He said the FBI and GBI were investigating, as arsons were reported across the country in response to the protests over building of the public safety training center. 

In response to weekend protests, Gov. Brian Kemp released a statement, saying some of the activists "chose destruction and vandalism over legitimate protest, yet again demonstrating the radical intent behind their actions. Domestic terrorism will not be tolerated in this state. We will not rest until those who use violence and intimidation for an extremist end are brought to full justice." 

Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Sean Waites, who is also on the public safety committee, said there needed to be more transparency to prevent more violence. She mentioned Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens's task force, created just last week, would discuss future progress on the site. 

"We have to have adequate and good, solid training," Waites said. "The way we went about this process may have been convoluted, but the reality is this is not an us vs. them situation. I don't believe more violence is the answer. I think the goal is to figure out how we get to the table to get to a place where we can all collaborate and move this conversation forward."

Before You Leave, Check This Out