A man has died and a Georgia state soldier was injured Wednesday after law enforcement attempted to move protesters away from the site of a controversial proposed public safety training center near Atlanta.
Activists have been occupying the area they call “Cop City” since late 2021 in an attempt to stop the project. Agents from several agencies were clearing people from the area early Wednesday when the shootings occurred, the The Bharat Express News reported.
“One person fired at law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers returned fire,” said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said on Twitter. “A Georgia State Trooper was hit and taken to hospital and is undergoing surgery. One man was killed.”
Government of Georgia, Brian Kemp said on Twitter he and his family are “praying today for this brave Trooper and public safety agents in all law enforcement agencies.”
According to a statement from the Altanta Community Press Collective, which has supported the activists, “dozens of heavily armed” law enforcement officers “entered the treeline with guns drawn and heavy machinery ready to continue the forest destruction.”
“Police killed a forest ranger because he loved this Earth, because he took a stand against the continued destruction of the planet and its people,” the statement said.
Investigators have not released the name of the murdered man. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the investigation is ongoing.
What’s Happening in ‘Cop City’?
Activists from the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” movement — which describes itself as a decentralized movement to “defend the Atlanta forest” — have occupied the area in unincorporated DeKalb County to stop construction of the 85-acre training facility.
The $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is expected to house police, fire and first responders and will feature classrooms, a shooting range, mock village and more, according to the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Activists say the project causes “ecological destruction” and “hypermilitarizes law enforcement,” contributing to the oppression of “Atlanta’s diverse black and working-class communities,” according to the Defend the Atlanta Forest website.
The website notes that the country has a “long history as a place of oppression,” including as a slave plantation and forced labor camp. “Instead of investing in solutions to the environmental crisis, governments are investing in tougher policing, especially of those underprivileged groups,” the website reads.
5 accused of domestic terrorism
Late last year, officers arrested five people and charged them with domestic terrorism and other charges at the site. DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said the arrests stemmed from “violent acts and trespassing.”
There were “more than four dozen instances of violent protests” at the site, including the destruction of equipment and the physical harassment of workers, the Atlanta Police Foundation said late last year.
“Nearly 50 people have been arrested for trespassing and throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers and construction workers,” the foundation said.