Arson, Vandalism Linked to Antifa Opponents of Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’ Spread to Five States as Project Is Tarred as ‘War Base’ That Will Train Police ‘To Kill Black People’ 

The contentious project, a target of Antifa protesters, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Arvin Temkar/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP
Atlanta's mayor, Andre Dickens, at a news conference in front of City Hall about the city's planned public safety training center, April 19, 2023. Arvin Temkar/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Construction of Atlanta’s contentious public safety training center, known to its antagonists as “Cop City,”  is expected to be completed by the end of this year, but arson, vandalism, and other illegal acts linked to its opponents, who are believed to be allied with the loosely confederated Antifa movement, have now spread to four other states outside Georgia.

The athletic training center, which the Atlanta Police Foundation says will open as a state-of-the-art facility in an effort to “reimagine” law enforcement training, was announced in 2021, sparking heated “Stop Cop City” and “Defend Atlanta Forest” efforts that have since extended across the country. Opponents of the Atlanta area facility say it will be “a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill black people,” according to one critic.

Another reason for attempts to block “Cop City” involves progressive activists’ desire to “acknowledge” and protect the forested land of the Muskogee tribe, which was removed from the area in the early 1800s.

The anti-Cop City movement’s leaders, who have been wreaking violent havoc in Georgia, are spreading their efforts beyond the Peach State and are planning for hundreds of protesters across the country to converge at Tucson, Arizona, for the “Nationwide Summit to Stop Cop City,” scheduled for February 23-26.

“The insurance provider for the police foundation have their headquarters in Arizona. The contractors building Cop City are not bound by the geographic limits of one city or state,” organizers wrote on social media. “The movement to Stop Cop City cannot be, either.” 

The Atlanta Police Department tells the Sun it is openly and actively investigating ongoing vandalism by the protesters. 

In December, the department, along with federal and local agencies, announced a $200,000 reward for information that leads to the identity and conviction of arson suspects, whose actions have spanned Georgia and four other states, police said, causing nearly $10 million in damages.

“For the last number of months, we have contended with a very small group of individuals that have worked very hard to impact the quality of safety in Atlanta,” Atlanta’s police chief, Darin Schierbaum, said at a press conference. Through arson, the protesters have caused important resources to be diverted and have placed citizen lives in danger, he added.

“Individuals have been arrested, court cases are under way, but there’s still others that have to be taken off the street before they strike again,” he said.

Last year, arsonists set construction equipment on fire and targeted private contractors as well as police facilities and vehicles, including setting fire to one police precinct that had an officer inside, the department said. 

“Why are we pointing this at the group that is opposed to the public safety training center? Because they’ve taken credit for this,” Mr. Schierbaum said. “They’ve taken credit for each of the construction sites that have been hit, they’ve taken credit for attempting to burn an occupied police precinct, they’ve taken credit for attempting to burn Path Force precincts, and they’ve taken credit, proudly, for not only attempting, but setting on fire, a youth center right here in Atlanta, Georgia.”

Last week, an iconic Atlanta tavern, Manuels, known as a popular watering hole for local politicians, was vandalized, its notable Coca-Cola mural defaced and its locks superglued shut in an incident that Atlanta police said was likely related to the Cop City protests. 

“For someone to use spray paint to intimidate elected officials and those that were gathering there that night to talk about the future and how that particular party can bring out the best policies is concerning,” Mr. Schierbaum said on Thursday.

Manuel’s “was spray-painted two nights ago, but we’ve seen fire be used over 20 times, arson has been used to intimidate elected officials, private sector individuals, …” he said. Anybody attempting to intimidate elected officials, he said, will “have the attention of this police department. We will identify them, we will arrest them, and no one should think they can just hide in the darkness and try to intimidate those that have been elected to serve this city.”

The training center’s backers say the site’s training courses, lab to test new technologies, and mock streetscape to simulate real-life encounters will improve police professionalism and “enable them to execute their oath to provide for the safety and security of the people they protect.” 

Supporters of the training center include the city’s Democratic mayor, Andre Dickens. 

“Our Public Safety personnel need modern, quality training programs and facilities throughout their careers — from their first day in the academy to routine training thereafter,” a representative of Mr. Dickens told the Sun. “This includes the most progressive training curriculum in the nation which includes learning and practicing de-escalation skills, mental health training, anti-bias training and building relationships with residents and strengthening community trust. That is what the Public Safety Training Center is about.”

Yet, the far-left groups that oppose the project say it’s a site for police to practice “how to make sure poor and working class people stay in line.”

“It is a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill black people and control our bodies and movements,” a community organizer against the facility, Kwame Olufemi, said in a statement. “So when the police kill us in the streets again, like they did to Rayshard Brooks in 2020, they can control our protests and community response to how they continually murder our people.” 

January 18 will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of an environmental activist, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, who was shot by Georgia state troopers during a raid of a Stop Cop City encampment, where protesters were defiantly camping on the land on which the training facility was to be built. Police said Terán was killed after he shot at police from inside his tent, wounding a trooper. He had just been fired at by a nonlethal pepperball launcher after he refused to leave his tent.

Representatives of Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, did not respond to a request from the Sun for comment on the vandalism spreading beyond Georgia to other states.

The Stop Cop City movement has become intertwined with anti-Israel protests, as the organizers say, “From Atlanta to Gaza, we share the same struggle against U.S. imperialism and Zionism.”

In a statement of solidarity with Palestinian groups, organizers wrote that they had a “collective responsibility” to “Stop Cop City, to shut down weapons companies, and to dismantle the war machine.”


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