Atlanta police arrested eight protesters accused of tossing Molotov cocktails at officers escorting construction workers to the site of a new police training facility, and the FBI was on scene amid a "concerted effort" by actors from at least seven other states committing criminal acts to stop the build.
Addressing reporters at the property in Dekalb County, Georgia, Atlanta police Assistant Chief Darin Schierbaum said Tuesday that eight people had been arrested and will face charges ranging from criminal trespassing to obstruction of law enforcement. No one was injured in the incident.
The FBI was on scene because those arrested had drivers’ licenses from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Virginia, New York and Minnesota. Schierbaum also said "criminal acts" have been committed in Alabama and elsewhere as part of an effort to deter the project from moving forward.
"There have been a number of concerted efforts to stop the building of the Public Safety Training Center by committing criminal acts here in Atlanta, in Dekalb County, in Birmingham, Alabama, and other states," Schierbaum said. "And we appreciate the Federal Bureau of Investigation joining this investigation to stop these attempts of intimidation and stop these criminal acts for this Public Safety Training Center."
"What is also very disturbing," Schierbaum told reporters, is that "the majority of people being arrested here in Dekalb County and other places have drivers’ licenses from Pennsylvania, from Tennessee, from Rhode Island, from Virginia, from New York and from Minnesota."
"These aren’t individuals who represent the interests of the community that I stand here representing today," the assistant chief said, arguing that the majority of city council voted for a public safety training center that puts forward quality law enforcement, fire and EMS capabilities.
"We will not be deterred by the acts of a few that does not represent our community and our community values by attempting to harm those first responders today," Schierbaum said.
The assistant chief warned that more individuals could be subject to arrest if they do not leave the area in the peaceful manner.
"We do know there are other people on the property now. We’re asking them to leave. It is illegal to be on the property. There is not public access here," he said.
The property is owned by the city of Atlanta and is not a park and does not have public access, he said.
Schierbaum also made an argument for why the police training center is important for public safety.
"I just direct you all to recent posting on our website, on our Instagram, on our Facebook, and on our Twitter. You’ll see actions of our police department administering CPR to an infant who has stopped breathing, you’ve seen our officers locate a dementia patient 74 years of age who wandered from her home and was located within four hours, you’ve seen our officer apprehending murderers and stopping active shooters," he said.
"They have those skill sets because of training – quality, consistent training. And we believe every neighborhood of Atlanta deserves competent, well-trained police department and fire department," the assistant chief continued. "And we are committed to ensure they have those services."
He said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found glass containers with an accelerant inside.
FOX 5 Atlanta reported that protesters with the "Stop Cop City" movement have been camping out on the property since last year to show opposition to the "expansion of the police state." These self-identified "forest defenders" have put metal stakes in trees to make them dangerous to cut down.