ATLANTA – Radical activists promised violence in Georgia after a fatal police shooting earlier in the week and they delivered as riots erupted in downtown Atlanta Saturday evening when people began throwing bricks at buildings and setting fire to law enforcement vehicles.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Darin Schierbaum made their stance on this very clear during a joint press conference, saying they will always support and protect the First Amendment right to peacefully protest, but there is no room for violence in the city, reported FOX 5 Atlanta.
Rioters in Atlanta set off fireworks, torched a police unit, threw rocks at the Atlanta Police Foundation, and smashed business windows creating havoc Saturday evening, according to the news outlet.
Police arrested at least six people during the night of chaos, the mayor said.
“Atlanta is safe and our police officers have resolved the disruptions downtown from earlier in the evening,” Dickens said Saturday night.
“The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department will continue to protect the right to peaceful protest. We will not tolerate violence or property destruction,” the mayor added.
Saturday’s protest spiraled into riots, according to FOX 5. Over the span of several hours, destruction ensued through several blocks of the downtown area.
BREAKING: #COPCITY protesters throw rocks at Atlanta Police Foundation building in downtown Atlanta. They also set off fireworks and spray painted the building. #ATL #BREAKING #NOW @FOX5Atlanta pic.twitter.com/BwF5CzNgIm
— Billy Heath III (@BillyHeathFOX5) January 21, 2023
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that breaking windows or setting fires is not protesting, that is terrorism,” Chief Schierbaum said during the press conference. “They will be charged accordingly, and they will find that this police department and the partnership is equally committed to stopping that activity.”
“What I saw wasn’t peaceful,” a witness, David Abrohams told FOX 5, “Yeah, no, I mean blowing up cop cars and throwing fireworks at police officers is not peaceful.”
Protesters called for violence against police officers and their affiliates following an officer-involved shooting on Wednesday that left a suspect dead and a state trooper wounded. The deceased man who initiated the gun battle with police was identified as 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran. He died after he refused demands from authorities and fired at state troopers at the site of the new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, Law Officer reported.
Activists had been camped out on an 85-acre planned facility known as “Cop City” in recent days to protest the planned training center. When Teran was fatally shot during an exchange of gunfire after police tried to remove the protesters from the plot of land on Wednesday, they vowed to continue their protests.
The Twitter account belonging to a group called “Scenes from the Atlanta Forest” called for a “Night of Rage” on Friday to demonstrate “reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies,” according to the account holder.
“Consider this a call for reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies. On Friday, January 20th, wherever you are, you are invited to participate in a night of rage in order to honor the memory of our fallen comrade,” the group wrote on Twitter, which seems to clearly violate the platform’s terms and conditions of use.
Defend the Atlanta Forest held a vigil Wednesday evening at the Little Five Points Square to “memorialize the forest defender” that was “murdered by the police,” it announced on Twitter.
“No one can bring our friend back to us. An innocent life has been taken and the machines continue,” the group said.
“We will not go quietly into this dark night,” it added.
“An individual, without warning, shot a Georgia State Patrol trooper,” Georgia Bureau of Investigations Director Michael Register 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 was reported to be in stable condition and is recovering following surgery.
“Other law enforcement personnel returned fire in self-defense and evacuated the trooper to a safe area. The individual who fired upon law enforcement and shot the trooper was killed in the exchange of gunfire,” Register said.
On Friday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released a picture of the gun the agency said they found on Teran. Officials said ballistic investigators matched that gun to the bullet that wounded the trooper, FOX News reported.
(Georgia Bureau of Investigation)
Seven people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Police Department issued a statement Saturday as order was restored.
“Atlanta Police officers have responded to a group damaging property at several locations along Peachtree [Street]. Several arrests have been made at this time and order has been restored to the downtown space. This is still an active and ongoing investigation and we will not be able to provide specifics on arrests numbers or property damaged, at this time.”
Caution tape was wrapped around several buildings including a Wells Fargo location that suffered several broken windows.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp spoke out against the riots on Saturday, saying violence of any kind will not be tolerated, FOX reported.
“While the state continues to respect peaceful protest, acts of violence against person or property will not be tolerated. Those committing such unlawful acts will be arrested and prosecuted fully,” Kemp said.