Atlanta Rocked by Violent Protests Over Police Murder of Environmental Activist Tortuguita

Atlanta Rocked by Violent Protests Over Police Murder of Environmental Activist Tortuguita

A protest turned violent in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night in the wake of the death of an environmental activist who was killed this week after authorities said the 26-year-old shot a state trooper.

Masked activists clad in black hurled rocks and set off fireworks in front of a skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation, smashing large glass windows. They then torched a police car and vandalized other buildings with anti-police graffiti as stunned tourists dispersed.

The violent protesters were a subsection of hundreds of protesters who had gathered and marched down Atlanta’s famous Peachtree Street to mourn the death of the protester, a non-binary person who called herself Little Turtle and used they/them pronouns.

Little Turtle was killed Wednesday when authorities evicted a small group of protesters from the site of a planned Atlanta-area public safety training center that activists have dubbed “Cop City.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said Little Turtle was killed after shooting and wounding a state trooper, but activists have disputed the officials’ version of events, calling it a “murder” and demanding an independent investigation.

According to the GBI, the incident was not recorded on body cameras. The GBI said Friday that it determined that the officer was shot in the abdomen by a bullet from a handgun in Tortuguita’s possession.

News of Saturday’s protest had circulated widely in advance on social media and among left-wing activists, with some distributing flyers reading: “Police killed protester. Get up. Defend yourself.

A police statement said protesters damaged property at various locations along Peachtree Street, a corridor of hotels and restaurants, adding that several arrests were made and “order was quickly restored to the downtown space.”

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

“This remains an active and ongoing investigation and we will not be able to provide details on the number of arrests or property damaged, at this time,” police said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp denounced the violence and thanked the responding officers.

“Violence and illegal destruction of property are not acts of protest,” the Republican governor tweeted. “These are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be fully prosecuted.

Opponents of the training center have been protesting for more than a year by building platforms in the surrounding trees and camping on the site.

They say the $90 million project, which would be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, involves cutting down so many trees that it would be bad for the environment. They also oppose investing so much money in a facility that they say will be used to practice “urban warfare.”

The GBI said around 25 campsites were located and removed on Wednesday and mortar-style fireworks, bladed weapons, BB rifles, gas masks and a blowtorch were recovered.

Seven people were arrested during the raid and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespassing, with other charges pending, the GBI said. They are between the ages of 20 and 34, and neither is a Georgia resident.

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