Atlanta police arrested at least six people after a peaceful protest Saturday erupted into a night of chaos and violence that included protesters breaking windows and setting fire to a police vehicle, the mayor said.
“Atlanta is safe and our police officers have resolved the break-in since earlier this evening,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said Saturday afternoon.
“The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department will continue to protect the right to peaceful protest. We will not tolerate violence or destruction of property,” the mayor said.
Rioters in Atlanta also set off fireworks and threw rocks at the Atlanta Police Foundation on Saturday afternoon, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
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The protests began peacefully on Saturday before turning into chaotic riots, according to FOX 5. Over the course of several hours, destruction was done through several blocks of the downtown area.
Protesters were outraged by the death of 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who was killed by police after he allegedly refused demands from authorities on Wednesday and fired a gun at state troopers at the site of a new Public Safety Training Center Atlanta.
The activist reportedly identified as a non-binary person who went by the name Tortuguita (“little turtle” in Spanish) and used the pronouns he/she. Protesters on Saturday carried signs bearing the name Tortuguita.
“An individual, without warning, took a Georgia State Patrol trooper,” Michael Register of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told reporters earlier this week.
The Georgia State Patrol trooper, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot in the abdomen. The law enforcement officer is in stable condition and is recovering from surgery.
“Other law enforcement personnel returned fire in self-defense and evacuated the trooper to a safe area. The person who fired at law enforcement and shot the trooper was killed in the exchange of gunfire.”
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On Saturday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp out against the riots, saying that violence of any kind will not be accepted.
“While the state continues to respect peaceful protest, acts of violence against person or property will not be tolerated. Those who commit such unlawful acts will be arrested and prosecuted fully,” said Kemp.
Photos show the activists allegedly setting an Atlanta PD vehicle on fire as well as targeting the Atlanta Police Foundation building.
The police car that was set on fire has since been extinguished.
“Atlanta police officers responded to a group that damaged property at several locations along Peachtree [Street],” the Atlanta PD said in a statement Saturday, according to Fox 5. At this time several arrests have been made and order has been restored to the downtown space. This remains an active and ongoing investigation and we will not there to provide details on the number of arrests or property damaged, at this time.”
Warning tape was also wrapped around several buildings including the Wells Fargo location which suffered several broken windows, photos at the scene show.
Activists have been camping out at a planned 85-acre facility dubbed “Cop City” for the past few days to protest the proposed training center. When Teran was shot and killed after authorities tried to remove the protesters from the ground on Wednesday, they vowed to continue their protests.
A total of seven people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism on Wednesday.
The Scenes from the Atlanta Forest Twitter account called for a “Night of Rage” to “enact reciprocal violence against the police and their allies,” according to a post.
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“Consider this a call to reciprocal violence against the police and their allies. On Friday, January 20, wherever you are, you are invited to participate in a night of rage to honor the memory of our comrades dropped,” the group wrote on Twitter, in apparent violation of the platform’s terms and conditions.
Protect the Atlanta Forest held a vigil Wednesday evening at the Little Five Points Square to “remember the forest protector” who was “killed by the police,” he announced on Twitter.
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“No one can bring our friend back to us. Innocent lives have been taken and the machines continue,” the group said.
“We will not go quietly into this dark night,” he said.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.