ATLANTA — A protest over the future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center turned violent in downtown on Saturday night -- three days after the death of a demonstrator who was killed by law enforcement where the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the 26-year-old shot a state trooper.
Dressed in all black with masks over their faces, activists threw rocks and reportedly lit fireworks in front of a building that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation, shattering large glass windows near Peachtree Street and Andrew Young Boulevard.
Just after 6 p.m., police said they set an Atlanta Police cruiser on fire, smashed the windows of a Wells Fargo bank and vandalized walls with anti-police graffiti in an area that is typically bustling with tourists. The protesters have dubbed the training facility as "Cop City."
Just before 7 p.m., police said "order has been restored to the downtown space."
11:05 p.m. | 11Alive's Brittany Kleinpeter was at the press conference where Mayor Dickens and APD Chief Schierbaum delivered remarks. She discusses the charges these violent protesters may face.
10:30 p.m. | Another witness captured an Atlanta Police cruiser engulfed in flames shortly after a protestor used explosives to set the car on fire, according to APD Chief Schierbaum.
10 p.m. | 11Alive's Dawn White spoke to a witness to the violent protests and a protester who showed up for the 5 p.m. rally at Underground Atlanta.
9:30 p.m. | One witness captured the moments after protests turned violent in Atlanta Saturday night.
9:10 p.m. | Photos show the damage that police cars and businesses incurred after protests turned violent.
Photos: Stop 'Cop City' protests turn violent in Downtown Atlanta
8:53 p.m. | Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said that several protesters were found with explosive devices on them and noted that one of those devices contributed to an Atlanta Police car being fully engulfed in flames. At least six people were arrested in tonight's protests that turned violent. He said three businesses were damaged.
8:45 p.m. | Mayor and police chief address violence in Downtown Atlanta. Re-watch it here:
8:05 p.m. | Photos from the Wells Fargo downtown show broken windows and a damaged ATM machine.
8 p.m. | MARTA service has resumed at the Peachtree Center station.
7:55 p.m. | Gov. Kemp tweeted on the events tonight saying the "destruction of property are not acts of protest" and went on to thank those in public safety working to keep the "streets safe tonight."
7:45 p.m. | Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum are going to address tonight's protests at 8:30 p.m. They said "several" arrests were made. You can watch the press conference in this story, the 11Alive YouTube channel and on 11Alive+ on Roku or FireTV.
7:27 p.m. | Atlanta Fire Rescue said they were dispatched to Andrew Young International Boulevard at Peachtree Center Avenue NE just after 6 p.m. to an Atlanta Police patrol car on fire. Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze and said there were no injuries.
6:50 p.m. | Video of the police car on fire was shared by 11Alive viewer Alexander Gonzalez.
6:47 p.m. | Atlanta Police released the following statement on tonight's protests saying they have things under control at this time.
"Atlanta Police have responded to a group damaging property at several locations along Peachtree St. Several arrests have been made at this time and order has been restored to the downtown space. This is still an active and ongoing investigation and we will not be able to provide specifics on arrests numbers or damaged property, at this time."
6:45 p.m. | Statement from Governor Kemp’s spokesman Andrew Isenhour on situation in downtown Atlanta:
"The governor remains well informed of the situation through regular updates from state law enforcement and is actively monitoring the situation. State patrol is well equipped to respond to any and all threats to public safety and is coordinating closely with other state agencies and local PD.
While the state continues to respect peaceful protest, acts of violence against person or property will not be tolerated. Those committing such unlawful acts will be arrested and prosecuted fully."
6:39 p.m. | Ellis Street NW and Peachtree Street NE are closed.
6:15 p.m. | APD released the following statement:
"The Atlanta Police Department is aware of these events, and we will continue to monitor them. We stand ready to respond to demonstrations to ensure the safety of those in our communities and those exercising their first amendment right, or to address illegal activity, should the need arise."
6:10 p.m. | MARTA has stopped service to the Peachtree Center station.
6:05 p.m. | An Atlanta Police cruiser is on fire near the Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Atlanta near Andrew Young International Blvd and Peachtree Center Avenue Northeast.
5:58 p.m. | Dawn White says the protesters have begun to march.
5:11 p.m. | 11Alive's Dawn White was at the initial protest, where roughly 100 people gathered and began chanting "stop Cop City."
5:00 p.m. | 11Alive's Dawn White is downtown with about 100 demonstrators.
Background on 'Cop City'
There have been several clashes between the protesters and police or other city service employees in recent months over the future City of Atlanta Public Safety Center, which was approved by the City Council in 2021. The Atlanta Police Foundation will build the 85-acre, $90 million facility under a lease agreement with the city. The foundation says it will preserve 180 additional acres at the site for green space.
The 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.
They also oppose it on the grounds that the land was once the site of the Old Prison Farm, a jail complex that was billed during its operation in the mid-20th Century as an "Honor Farm" where prisoners farmed the land as a "dignified" means of imprisonment, a practice which has since been scrutinized for its profit generation and exploitation of unpaid labor.
To find out more on the police training facility, the trooper injured and previous arrests, click here.