More than 20 people have been charged with domestic terrorism Monday following a night of violent protests at the proposed site of an Atlanta public safety training facility.
Atlanta police said Monday in a news release 23 people were charged with domestic terrorism resulting from the protests Sunday, with only two residents of Georgia. Two charged were from France and Canada and others were from as far away as Arizona, Colorado and Utah.
According to WSB-TV, police said one of the Georgia residents arrested was Thomas Webb Jurgens, 28, who works as a staff attorney for the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been utilized by the FBI to target Christian and conservative organizations as "hate groups."
Those suspects could also face federal charges as the investigation proceeds, the FBI said Monday, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference Sunday night protesters were attending an event nearby the training facility. He said some “left that location and at about 5:30 p.m. moved toward the training center site armed with fireworks, rocks, Molotov cocktails and launched a coordinated criminal attack against officers at that location.”
The police department said multiple pieces of construction equipment were destroyed by fire and vandalism. Police initially detained 35 people.
“Actions such as this will not be tolerated,” Schierbaum said. “When you attack law enforcement officers, damage equipment, you are breaking the law.
“This was a very violent attack. This was not about a public safety training center, this was about anarchy, and this was an attempt to destabilize.”
Atlanta police provided links to videos of the protests, including one that shows officers retreating behind a fenced area when protesters behind another fenced area threw objects at them, including fireworks. Another video shows protesters setting construction equipment ablaze and throwing objects at police cars.
“What happened [Sunday] night was not [a] peaceful protest, it was violence, plain and simple,” Republican Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement posted Monday on his Twitter account. “We will not tolerate this destruction of property, and we will seek to ensure that those who have engaged in this criminal behavior are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The planned $90 million public safety training facility, known by opponents as “Cop City,” has been the scene of violent protests for months, with many objecting to the project because of environmental concerns.
Activists said they were attending a music festival nearby, and Defend the Atlanta Forest, a social media site used by opponents of the facility, tweeted Sunday night, “It's important to note that the 23 people that police arrested tonight were not ‘violent agitators,’ but peaceful concert goers who were nowhere near the demonstration."
The latest violence came nearly two months after a protester at the site, Manuel Teran, 26, was shot and killed by police during a clearing operation. Police said Teran, who went by the name Tortuguita, did not comply with commands and fired first on officers, striking a Georgia state trooper, who survived. Tortuguita's death sparked violent protests in downtown Atlanta, where a police cruiser was set ablaze, and windows were shattered on a building that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation.
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