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Here's a look at the construction site of the Atlanta public safety training center

Construction is due to start this summer

ATLANTA — Atlanta Police said the ground is cleared at the embattled site of the proposed public safety training center in southeast Atlanta, despite fierce protests. 

On Friday, police and fire officials hosted a news media tour of the site – an event put together by city officials to push back against protesters who have urged the city to stop this project.

Rolling onto the 85-acre public safety training center site, city officials said most of the acreage cleared consisted of weeds, invasive plants and 100,000 discarded tires.

"So this entire area is being protected," said Bob Hughes, the facility planner with H2R, the contractor that has done the design legwork.

Adjacent to the cleared space are ponds and, the city said, old-growth forest. Protesters have decried the project as a destroyer of old trees. However, engineers said there were only 12 to 15 acres of actual old-growth forest here  – and planners said they’re saving all of it.

"Think of a college campus. That’s what you’d have here (25 acres)," APD Administration Deputy Chief Marshal Freeman said. 

Backers said the public safety training center will have 25 acres of space accessible to the public – plus much more public parkland adjacent to the site. Critics said the project is wrongheaded, training in tougher police tactics they said are outdated.

"It is a Six Flags-sized playground for urban warfare, for police militarization. I’m not seeing where we’re getting de-escalation training," said Brionte McCorkle, executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters, during a protest at City Hall Wednesday.

Chief Darin Schierbaum said facts released by the city debunk claims of a militarization curriculum at the center.  

"It is preparation of first responders, those responding to babies not breathing, active shooters, car accidents. We have to prepare our officers for every 911 call that could be made," he said. "I am excited for the officers. And I’m excited for the citizens."

The Atlanta City Council is due to vote next month on an additional $30 million expenditure for the project.

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