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 a police vehicle on fire, the mayor said.
“Atlanta is safe and our police officers have resolved disruptions downtown since early evening,” Atlanta Mayor Andre 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 destruction of property,” added the mayor.
Rioters in Atlanta also set off fireworks and threw rocks at the Atlanta Police Foundation on Saturday night, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
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The protests began peacefully on Saturday before escalating into chaotic riots, according to FOX 5. Over the course of several hours, destruction occurred across several blocks in the downtown area.
Protesters were angered by the death of Manuel Esteban Páez Terán, 26, who was killed by police after he allegedly rejected authorities’ demands on Wednesday and fired a gun at state police at the site of the new Centro de Atlanta Public Safety Training.
The activist reportedly identified as a non-binary person who called herself Tortuguita (“little turtle” in Spanish) and used they/them pronouns. Protesters carried signs with Tortuguita’s name on Saturday.
“A Georgia State Patrol trooper was shot by an individual without warning,” 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 police personnel returned fire in self-defense and evacuated the policeman to a safe area. The individual who fired at the police and shot the policeman was killed in the exchange of fire.”
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On Saturday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp spoke out against the rioting, saying violence of any kind will not be tolerated.
“As long as the state continues to respect peaceful protests, acts of violence against people or property will not be tolerated. Those who commit such illegal acts will be fully arrested and prosecuted,” Kemp said.
Photos show the activists allegedly torching an Atlanta police vehicle in addition to targeting the Atlanta Police Foundation building.
The police car that was set on fire has already been extinguished.
“Atlanta police officers responded to a group that damaged property at various locations along Peachtree [Street]”Atlanta police said in a statement Saturday, according to Fox 5. 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 details about the number of arrests or property damaged, at this time.”
Caution tape also wrapped around several buildings, including a Wells Fargo location that suffered several broken windows, photos at the scene show.
Activists camped out at a planned 85-acre facility known as “Cop City” in recent days to protest the planned training facility. When Terán was shot dead after authorities tried to drive protesters off 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 Atlanta Woods Scenes Twitter account called for a “Night of Rage” to enact “reciprocal violence against police and their allies,” according to one post.
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“Consider this as a call for 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 fallen comrade.” the group wrote on Twitter, in an apparent violation of the platform’s terms and conditions.
Defend the Atlanta Forest held a vigil Wednesday night in Little Five Points Square to “commemorate the defender of the forest” who was “killed by police,” it announced on Twitter.
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“No one can return our friend to us. An innocent life has been taken and the machines continue,” the group said.
“We will not go quietly into this dark night,” he added.
This is breaking news and will be updated.