ATLANTA — Atlanta Police said they made eight arrests when people began to throw rocks and what was believed to be a Molotov cocktail at officers on the site of a future public safety training facility on Tuesday afternoon.
Police said they were at the site accompanying contractors who were tasked with removing some temporary structures that were set up.
Activists said the longstanding protest encampment against the future police and fire training complex was being "raided."
"The drastic response of police militarizing against people trying to protect our forest and our local community is very concerning," a local activist said in a statement sent to 11Alive. "Militarized police is not how we keep community safe."
Several police agencies were on site including APD, DeKalb Police, the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
APD Assistant Chief Darin Schierbaum said that "while there, they were approached by persons throwing rocks at officers as well as a device we believe to be a molotov cocktail."
He later further described the molotov cocktail as a "glass container with accelerant inside and a crude ignition device." He said no one was hurt when it was thrown.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, APD released a video of the incident.
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chierbaum said that the charges for the eight arrested individuals range from criminal trespass to obstruction of law enforcement officers. He said authorities believe perhaps 8-10 people were still in the woods, and they were asking them to leave.
He described the area as City of Atlanta property where there is no public access and where it is not legal for people to be camped.
The City Council voted 10-4 last year to approve the facility, derisively referred to by community organizers as "Cop City," to be built on the old Prison Farm site in southeast Atlanta.
The proposed $90 million facility was a priority of the law enforcement community, which argued it would help the city recruit and retain officers after the force saw departures and low morale following protest movements calling for policing reforms.
It has faced robust opposition from a coalition of Atlanta community activists, environmentalists and urbanists, who wanted to preserve the old Prison Farm site as a public greenspace and objected to using public land for the facility in a predominantly Black section of southeast Atlanta rather than in wealthier, whiter sections of the city, such as Buckhead.
Schierbaum said several of the people arrested had out-of-state driver's licenses, and that in moving ahead with the training facility "we will not be deterred by the acts of a few that do not represent our community."
The site has long been opposed by some Atlanta-based community activists, however, and this weekend organizers staged a large march in demonstration against the project.
11Alive's Tracey Amick Peer visited the protest encampments - which were first established around December - in February.
A protester, known as Coyote, showed us the treehouses and tents they had been living in to physically block Atlanta from building their new training facility.
"People have built barricades, so there are barricades on certain paths to keep bulldozers from coming in," he said.
Coyote said the group feels the facility is bad for the ecology, and they want the land to go back to the Muscogee tribe instead. In general, they don't support any police training facility, anywhere.
The plan approved by the City Council involved a ground lease agreement between the city and the Atlanta Police Foundation, which says it will build on 85 acres of the site and preserve the remaining 180 acres as greenspace.
Former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms promised at the time of the project's approval that planners would protect the fabric of the urban forest at the portions of the site that will not be built on for the facility.
Current Mayor Andre Dickens was among the 10 votes in favor of the project as a councilman last year.