Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Sunday denied reports that the widespread protests seen there were peaceful — and said that six people who allegedly traveled into the city with explosives will face domestic terrorism charges.
Dickens gave an update on the destructive Saturday night protests that followed the fatal shooting of a 26-year-old environmental activist while speaking on a panel discussing crime in American cities on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
Activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was shot and killed last week by Georgia State Patrol troopers who were trying to clear demonstrators from the construction site of a new public safety training center — dubbed “Cop City.”
Teran was asked to move out of the woods Wednesday morning where the protest was taking place, but instead shot at the troopers, wounding one patrol officer. Law enforcement returned fire and fatally shot Teran.
Teran’s death has sparked a wave of destructive protests across the city. An angry crowd took to the streets Saturday night, smashing car windows and damaging at least three businesses. Amid the chaos, protesters smashed property and set a cop car aflame. According to police, order had been restored in the downtown area by 7 p.m.
The Democratic mayor noted that the protests had started out peacefully, but were thrown off track by a group of six people who allegedly came to Atlanta with the intention of committing violence.
“They had explosives. They burned down a police car, they broke windows at businesses. And so our police department, along with our state and federal partners, took swift action within two blocks and brought that situation under control,” Dickens said.
Dickens said the violence stopped once those six individuals were arrested, adding, “It should be noted that these individuals were not Atlanta or Georgia residents.”
Those who were arrested will face a variety of charges, stemming from violence to domestic terrorism and assault battery, Dickens said.
“Most of them traveled into our city to wreak havoc. And so, we love to support people when they’re doing right, peaceful protest is part of the American- our freedoms, but when you are violent, we will make sure that you get held accountable.”
When asked if he thought Atlanta was being targeted by organized groups, Dickens said: “In that regard? Yes.”
He noted that those protesting against the development of the public safety training center for firefighters and police are protesting against “the very things that they asked for — more police training.”
“We can’t train the imaginary, we have to do it in a facility that allows for police [and] firefighters in the community to train together,” Dickens said.
“This is bringing about the change that we wanted to see in 2020. And now while we’re doing it, these individuals don’t want to see any resources go towards that training is so we’re going to develop this training center and those individuals will have to come to a halt.”
Those against the creation of the training center have been protesting for over a year by building platforms in surrounding trees and camping out at the site. Detractors say that the $90 million project would be environmentally damaging because it will require cutting down too many trees.
Many activists have questioned the police version of events in Teran’s death. After demanding the release of law enforcement body camera footage, police the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday that there is no bodycam footage of the shooting.