Atlanta police arrested at least six people after a peaceful protest Saturday erupted into a night of chaos and violence that included protesters smashing windows and setting a police vehicle on fire, the mayor said.
“Atlanta is safe and our police officers have resolved the disruptions downtown from earlier in the evening,” City of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said Saturday evening.
“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.
Rioters in Atlanta also set off fireworks and threw rocks at the Atlanta Police Foundation Saturday evening, according FOX 5 Atlanta.
The protests began peacefully on Saturday before spiraling into chaotic riots, according to FOX 5. Over the span of several hours, destruction ensued through several blocks of the downtown area.
Protestors were angry about the death of 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who was killed by police after he allegedly refused demands from authorities on Wednesday and fired a gun at state troopers at the site of the new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
The activist reportedly identified as a nonbinary person who went by the name Tortuguita (“little turtle” in Spanish) and used they/it pronouns. Protesters carried signs with Tortuguita’s name on Saturday.
“An individual, without warning, shot a Georgia State Patrol trooper,” Georgia Bureau of Investigations’ 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 is in stable condition and is recovering from 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.”
On Saturday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp spoke out against the riots, saying violence of any kind will not be tolerated.
“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.
Photos show the activists allegedly lit an Atlanta PD vehicle on fire in addition to targeting the Atlanta Police Foundation building.
The police car that was set ablaze has since been extinguished.
“Atlanta Police officers have responded to a group damaging property at several locations along Peachtree [Street],” the Atlanta PD 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 specifics on arrests numbers 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 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 shot and killed after authorities tried to remove the protesters from the plot of land on Wednesday, they vowed to continue their protests.
A total of seven people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism on Wednesday.
The Twitter account Scenes from the Atlanta Forest called for a “Night of Rage” to enact “reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies,” according to a post.
“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, in an apparent violation of the platform’s terms and conditions.
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.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.