Georgia state and Atlanta officials criticized a violent protest in the city on Saturday; Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said that some business’ windows were broken and a police car was set on fire, but said that no citizens or officers were injured.
“The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department will not tolerate this and we continue to protect the right to peacefully protest. We will not tolerate violence or property destruction,” Mayor Andre Dickens said in a Saturday press conference, according to 11Alive video.
Demonstrations against the construction of a new police training facility escalated on Wednesday, January 18 when a man allegedly shot a state trooper during a law enforcement operation at the site; police shot the man, who died, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. GBI reported Thursday and Friday that officers arrested seven people from out of state and recovered a handgun, pellet guns, edged weapons, fireworks, gas masks, and a blow torch. Those arrested Thursday were charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass.
On Sunday, Dickens told CBS’ “Face The Nation,” “And so now, they had a protest last night, and it was peaceful. But there were some individuals within that crowd that meant violence. They had explosives. They burned down a police car, they broke windows at businesses. And so our police department, along with our state and federal partners, took swift action within two blocks and brought that situation under control. And the violence stopped and those six individuals were arrested.”
“And it should be noted that these individuals were not Atlanta or Georgia residents. Most of them traveled into our city to wreak havoc,” he said.
Fox News reported that those arrested faced charges of domestic terrorism, arson, criminal damage, and interference with government property.
“We can tell now, early in this investigation, this was not the focus tonight just to damage windows on three buildings and set a police car on fire. The intent was to continue to do harm and that did not happen,” Schierbaum said in the Saturday press conference, crediting law enforcement with quickly stopping the situation from worsening.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that breaking windows and setting fires is not protest. That is terrorism,” he said.
“To the Atlanta Media: Peaceful protestors use words. Rioters smash windows, set police cars on fire and shoot law enforcement officers. Stop calling these people protesters,” Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted Saturday evening.
Governor Brian Kemp thanked law enforcement in a Saturday evening tweet and said, “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.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].