The peaceful protests following the death of a Georgia activist on Saturday evening became violent in downtown Atlanta, with people throwing bricks at buildings and setting fire to police vehicles.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum made their position clear during a press conference: while they will always uphold and safeguard the right to peaceful protest under the First Amendment, there is no place in Atlanta for violence.
On Wednesday, Georgia State Troopers killed 26-year-old protester Manuel Esteban Paez Teran during a sweep in Entrenchment Creek Park. On Saturday, demonstrators took to Underground Atlanta to call for an investigation into Paez Teran’s killing. The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, sometimes known as “Cop City” by its detractors, is set to be built there.
According to their investigation, Teran did not follow orders from a joint task force and instead opened fire on a trooper.
Casey Sharp, an opponent of the police training center, said to FOX 5: “We can debate the circumstances of what happened Wednesday all day.” I think it’s important to have a third party look at it.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation published a photo of the gun it claims to have found on Teran on Friday. Officials claimed that ballistics experts had linked the bullet that hit the trooper to the weapon in question.
On Wednesday, seven individuals were taken into custody and accused of acts of domestic terrorism.
Teran, affectionately known as “Tortuguita,” was laid to rest on Friday evening, and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said on Saturday that a crowd had assembled for a peaceful protest at Underground Atlanta. For New Year’s Eve celebrations in Atlanta, known as the “Peach Drop,” many people go to this neighborhood.
Black-clad protesters flooded downtown Atlanta’s Peachtree Street for an hour to call for justice for ‘Tortuguita.’
At the Ellis Street and Peachtree Street junction, however, “a group inside that marching mass decided to start doing illegal behaviors including shattering windows and hitting police cruisers that were in the neighborhood,” Schierbaum said. The leader stated that a few of the protesters were professional actors who had taken part in similar demonstrations before.
The Mayor, Mr. Dickens, claimed that several of them were armed with bombs.
David Abrohams, a witness, told FOX 5 that “what I saw wasn’t calm.” No, I don’t think it’s peaceful to set off fireworks at police or blow up police cars.
BREAKING: #COPCITY protesters throw rocks at Atlanta Police Foundation building in downtown Atlanta. They also set off fireworks and spray painted the building. #ATL #BREAKING #NOW @FOX5Atlanta pic.twitter.com/BwF5CzNgIm
— Billy Heath III (@BillyHeathFOX5) January 21, 2023
It happened during a live broadcast on FOX 5 when one of the cars caught fire.
Another police car had its glass smashed by the suspects caught on camera.
During the protest on Saturday, FOX 5’s Tyler Fingert and photojournalist Billy Heath III spotted Atlanta police officers carrying zip ties.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that breaking windows or setting fires is not protesting, that is terrorism,” Schierbaum said in a press conference after the incident. “They will be charged accordingly, and they will find that this police department and the partnership are equally committed to stopping that activity.”
Two blocks later, according to Schierbaum, the illegal activities had ceased and six people had been apprehended.
ATLANTA ARRESTS: I witnessed @Atlanta_Police make a number of arrests tonight and managed to film two #COPCITY protesters being zip tied and removed from the street. #BREAKING #ATL #PROTEST #NEWS @FOX5Atlanta #ATLANTA pic.twitter.com/RjrVrG376U
— Billy Heath III (@BillyHeathFOX5) January 22, 2023
This is a statement issued by the Atlanta Police Department:
“Atlanta Police officers have responded to a group damaging property at several locations along Peachtree [Street]. 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 arrest numbers or property damage, at this time.”
The area will have a significant police presence for the rest of the night.
On Peachtree Street, three separate establishments had their windows broken.
Mayor Dickens made it clear that anybody responsible for continuing this type of illegal activity would be tracked down, arrested, and made to answer for their actions.
To the full extent of the law, protesters who cause property damage will be prosecuted, as both Mayor Dickens and Chief Schierbaum have stated.
Violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest. They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be prosecuted fully.
Thank you to the hardworking @ga_dps, @GBI_GA, @Atlanta_Police, and others actively keeping our streets safe tonight.
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) January 22, 2023
Saturday night, Governor Kemp tweeted, “Violence and unlawful damage of property are not forms of protest.” “They are serious offenses that will be met with severe punishment in the state of Georgia. Our streets would not be as safe as they are tonight without the dedicated efforts of the [Georgia Department of Public Safety], [Georgia Bureau of Investigation], [Atlanta Police Department], and others.”
Neither police officers nor demonstrators were hurt during the incident.
Bus shuttles are running between Garnett and Civic Center, serving all stations except Peachtree Center, while streetcar shuttle van service has been temporarily discontinued, as announced by MARTA officials. MARTA says affected riders can get an $8 credit for Uber or Lyft by clicking the link below.