Atlanta protest over police killing of activist turns violent : NPR

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Demonstrators protest the death of an environmental activist, who moved from Tortuguita, to Atlanta on Saturday.

RJ Rico/AP

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RJ Rico/AP

Demonstrators protest the death of an environmental activist, who moved from Tortuguita, to Atlanta on Saturday.

RJ Rico/AP

ATLANTA — A protest turned violent in downtown Atlanta Saturday night after the death of an environmental activist who was killed this week after authorities say the 26-year-old activist shot a state trooper.

Masked activists dressed in all black threw rocks and lit fireworks in front of a skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation, breaking large glass windows. They then set fire to a police car and vandalized another building with anti-police graffiti as stunned tourists scattered.

The violent protesters were a subset of hundreds of protesters who had gathered and marched down Atlanta’s famous Peachtree avenue to mourn the death of the protester, a non-binary person who went by the name Tortuguita and used their pronouns.

Tortuguita was killed Wednesday as authorities cleared a small group of protesters from the site of a planned public safety training center in the Atlanta area that activists have dubbed “Cop City.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tortuguita was killed after a state trooper was shot and wounded, but activists questioned the officers’ version of events, calling it a “murder” and demanding an independent investigation.

According to the GBI, the incident was not recorded on body cameras. The GBI said Friday that it determined the trooper was shot in the abdomen by a bullet from a gun Tortuguita owned.

Word of Saturday’s protest had circulated well ahead of time on social media and among left-wing activists, with some handing out flyers that read, “Police killed protester. Forward. Fight back.”

A police statement said that the protesters damaged property in several places along Peachtree Street, a corridor of hotels and restaurants, adding that several arrests were made and “order was quickly restored in the Downtown space”.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

“This remains an active and ongoing investigation and we will not be able to provide details on arrest numbers or property damage at this time,” police said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp condemned the violence and thanked the officers who responded.

“Violence and illegal destruction of property are not acts of protest,” the Republican governor he tweeted. “They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be fully prosecuted.

Opponents of the training center have been protesting for more than a year by building platforms in the surrounding trees and camping on the site.

They say the $90 million project, which will be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, involves cutting down so many trees that it is harmful to the environment. They also oppose investing so much money in a facility they say will be used to practice “urban warfare.”

The GBI said about 25 campsites were located and cleared Wednesday and mortar-style fireworks, edged weapons, pellet guns, gas masks and blow torches were recovered.

Seven people were arrested during the raid and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass, with other charges pending, the GBI said. They range in age from 20 to 34 years old, and none are residents of Georgia.

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