(Reuters) -Fire broke out at the construction site of a future Atlanta police training center on Sunday after a protest at the property led to clashes between police and protesters, Atlanta media reported. Heavy smoke could be seen for miles, WSB television reported, saying events had begun with a music festival that was part of […]
Fire breaks out as police, protesters clash at Atlanta police training center
(Reuters) -Fire broke out at the construction site of a future Atlanta police training center on Sunday after a protest at the property led to clashes between police and protesters, Atlanta media reported.
Heavy smoke could be seen for miles, WSB television reported, saying events had begun with a music festival that was part of a week of demonstrations to protect the forest where the facility is being built.
Opponents of the training site, who derisively call it “Cop City,” also oppose the escalation of police tactics.
The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center will become a police and fire training center on 85 acres (34.4 hectares) of a 400-acre property in unincorporated DeKalb County that is owned by the city, according to the facility’s website.
Hundreds of people attended Sunday’s events, and a group broke off from the concert to start a protest, WSB reported, citing witnesses.
More than 100 protesters damaged construction equipment and shot fireworks at police, the television news station said, citing unidentified law enforcement sources.
The area was on lockdown, with a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team reporting to the scene, and the fire was extinguished, WAGA television reported, citing reporters at the scene.
There was a strong police presence and a number of arrests were made, WAGA said.
Images on social media showed flames and smoke coming from multiple spots on the property. One image showed heavy equipment in flames.
Opponents of the site say they want to preserve the larger South River Forest, also known as the Weelaunee Forest and what they call the “lungs of Atlanta.”
“We call on all people of good conscience to stand in solidarity with the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta,” reads a statement on a website called Defend The Atlanta Forest.
The website promoted a series of events from March 4 to March 11 including live music and forest tours, describing it as the fifth such week of activities.
The site was subject to a protest in January that briefly turned violent as demonstrators set a police car on fire and smashed windows of buildings. Demonstrators at that time gathered to protest the law enforcement killing of an activist during a raid to clear the construction site.
Atlanta police said a statement about Sunday’s incident would be made public soon. Atlanta fire officials did not immediately respond to requests for information.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Bradley Perrett and Edwina Gibbs)
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