DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond issued an executive order to prevent visitors from stepping into Intrenchment Creek Park and the South River Forest.
Thurmond claims the site may contain “unknown and potentially dangerous contraptions” on the grounds. Thurmond said hidden traps and devices were found at the sites by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Pictures of some of the traps were displayed during a press conference. The "contraptions" appeared to be boards of wood with nails sticking out of them.
Parts of the land that are restricted will serve as the site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known by its critics as "Cop City." Several activists were recently charged with domestic terrorism after property was damaged at the development site.
How many 'contraptions' were found?
The DeKalb County CEO could not say how many traps were found. Thurmond said law enforcement hasn't been able to check the parks for traps.
When law enforcement tried, Thurmond said they were attacked and forced to leave the area.
Thurmond said the sites are being closed as a precaution to protect residents of DeKalb County.
Photos: Officials say boards with nails found in future police training facility site
What happens if you visit the park?
Thurmond said those unaware of the closure will be informed and asked to leave.
Anyone found trespassing, parking an unauthorized vehicle, moving, removing or defacing signs will be prosecuted, according to Thurmond.
How will the executive order be enforced?
The DeKalb County CEO did not say how it would be enforced, only that he expects "law-abiding citizens" to respect the county and the executive order.
When asked if law enforcement will be at the locations, Thurmond said he believed that residents will follow the executive order.
"Call me naïve, I think law-abiding citizens will heed the warning, I'm not presupposing that people are going to violate this executive order or any other law," he said.
How will DeKalb County accommodate people who wish to protest peacefully?
Thurmond said the county supports legal, nonviolent protests but said the grounds are "even dangerous to protesters."
Thurmond did not say exactly where people could protest. He said, "[the contraptions found] present a very different problem because it becomes a threat to health and safety."
More on the case
The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is an 85-acre, $90 million facility that the Atlanta City Council approved in 2021.
It would be built on city-owned land in accordance with a lease agreement between the city and the Atlanta Police Foundation, a private nonprofit that supports the Atlanta Police Department.
It is to be built on a portion of the South River Forest area - protesters refer to it as the Weelaunee Forest, for the Native American name it was once known by - on top of the Old Atlanta Prison Farm complex.
It lies within south DeKalb County, roughly bounded by Intrenchment Creek to the east, Key Road to the north and Constitution Road to the south.
The law enforcement community has argued the training facility would be a crucial component in stabilizing the police force, aiding in recruitment and retention after low morale and departures following the racial and criminal justice protests of 2020.
Protesters have opposed the facility on environmental and historical grounds, saying it would decimate one of the largest preserved forest areas in the city and desecrate historically Native American land of the Muscogee Creek people, who once lived in the woods and called it the Weelaunee Forest before being displaced by white settlers in the early 19th century.
An activist was recently killed by police at the site earlier this year. Police said the activist, Manuel Paez Teran, shot back at officers, but a new independent autopsy said the activist had their hands up at the time of the shooting.
The shooting happened while officers were clearing out the site to continue the construction of building the training center.