A protest turned violent Saturday night in downtown Atlanta in the wake of this week’s killing by law enforcement officers of an environmental activist who had shot a state trooper, according to officials.
Masked protesters dressed in black threw rocks and lit fireworks in front of a skyscraper that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation, shattering windows. They lit a police cruiser on fire, smashed more windows and vandalized walls with anti-police graffiti as stunned tourists scattered.
The violent protesters were a subsection of hundreds who had gathered and marched up Atlanta’s famed Peachtree Street to mourn the death of the 26-year-old, a nonbinary person who went by the name Tortuguita and used they/it pronouns.
Tortuguita was killed Wednesday as authorities cleared a small group of protesters from the site of a planned public safety training center that activists have dubbed “Cop City.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said Tortuguita was killed by officers after shooting and injuring a state trooper, but activists have questioned officials’ version of the events, calling the killing a “murder” and demanding an independent investigation.
According to the GBI, the incident was not recorded on body cameras. The bureau said Friday that it determined that the trooper was shot in the abdomen by a bullet from a handgun that was in Tortuguita’s possession.
Word of Saturday’s protest had been widely circulated on social media and among leftist activists; fliers were distributed that read: “Police killed a protester. Stand up. Fight back.”
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said during a news conference that authorities made six arrests Saturday and recovered explosive devices after protesters damaged property along Peachtree Street, a corridor of hotels and restaurants. He said authorities halted the violence within two blocks, and no citizens or law enforcement officers were injured.
“We can tell now, early in this investigation, this was not the focus tonight just to damage the windows of three buildings and set a police car on fire,” Schierbaum said. “The intent was to continue to do harm, and that did not happen.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp decried the violence and thanked the responding officers.
“Violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest,” the Republican governor tweeted. “They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be prosecuted fully.”
Opponents of the training center have been protesting for more than a year by building platforms in surrounding trees and camping out at 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 environmentally damaging. They also oppose spending so much on a facility they say will be used to practice “urban warfare.”
The GBI said about 25 campsites were located and removed in Wednesday’s raid, and mortar-style fireworks, edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks and a blow torch were recovered.
Seven people, ranging in age from 20 to 34, were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass, with other charges pending, the GBI said. None of those arrested are Georgia residents.
Three years after the United States logged its first case of COVID-19, the pandemic has slipped off the front pages and seemingly out of public consciousness.
Kids are back in schoolrooms, office workers are returning to offices, restaurants and bars are crowded. Most Americans have given up wearing masks, if they ever did, even in crowded indoor spaces.
But the pandemic isn’t over. We’re just pretending it is.
Over the last two months, the federal government has reported an average of about 450 deaths from COVID every day. That’s far below the toll during last winter’s killer surge but still adds up to more than 3,000 dead each week.
COVID is no longer feared as an equal opportunity disease. It’s now mostly a threat to vulnerable populations, especially those 65 and older or with other medical problems.
That has freed the young and healthy to return to their pre-pandemic lives, and that’s good news. But it has also divided the population between those who feel vulnerable and those who don’t.
The poll also found divisions along racial and economic lines. Black and Latino people were more likely to say they worried about getting sick than white people. Low-income Americans were more worried than the affluent.
Those divisions, on top of the gradually declining death rate, have made it easier to demote the pandemic from a national crisis to just one of many chronic problems.