A peaceful protest in downtown Atlanta turned violent Saturday evening when protesters set a police car on fire and started smashing windows.
Six protesters were arrested, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum announced in a news conference on Saturday night. Those people have not been identified and their charges have not been released.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said several arrested people do not live in the Atlanta area or Georgia.
Hundreds of protesters opposed to the construction of an APD training center gathered at Underground Atlanta before moving down Peachtree St. in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
Chief Schierbaum said a group of the protesters dressed in all black began peacefully marching down Peachtree St. When they got to the intersection of Ellis Street, some protesters started breaking windows and attacking APD patrol cars. One of the APD cruisers was set on fire.
Within two blocks, Atlanta police officers on the scene had stopped the violence from spreading further into downtown. However, chief Schierbaum said the group intended to continue causing damage.
Three businesses, including a Wells Fargo bank, were damaged, Schierbaum said.
No officers or citizens were injured.
Spokespeople with “Stop Cop City,” who have claimed several times that they are peaceful protesters, released a statement saying they are not backing down and do not believe their actions on Saturday night are violent.
“Destruction of material is fundamentally different from violence. All reported acts appear to be explicitly targeted against the financial backers & goons of the Atlanta Police Foundation, a shady nonprofit that funnels weapons and military gear into our city to wage war on black and brown folks. The police have raided the forest for over seven months, destroying material by trashing camps and water supplies, threatened the lives of forest defenders and now have murdered one. Protestors are only leveling the playing field & preventing future violence by disabling the economic machine of the Atlanta Police Foundation that seeks to sterilize all life within the Weelaunee Forest.”
They later released an amended statement that read:
“What is the proper reaction to police killing Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Esteban Paez Teran? Destruction of material is fundamentally different from the violence that led to extinguishing someone’s light. We are seeing what we have seen across the country, a community in grief seeking accountability against the financial backers and goons of the Atlanta Police Foundation, a shady nonprofit that funnels weapons and military gear into our city to wage war on Black, Indigenous, Brown and poor folks in the community. The police have evoked violence when they raided the forest for over 7 months, destroying material by trashing camps and water supplies and threatening the lives of forest defenders. It seems the community is trying to disable the economic machine of the Atlanta Police Foundation that seeks to sterilize all life within the Weelaunee Forest to protect the community they love from further violence.“
Mike Register, the Director of the GBI, said the protesters are not peaceful but were violent on many occasions.
“Arson, attacking citizens, shooting police officers, using explosives,” Register said at a news conference Wednesday.