Protesters Damage Vehicles at Site of New Police Center in Atlanta

ATLANTA — Hundreds of activists breached the site of a proposed police and fire training center in Atlanta’s wooded outskirts on Sunday, burning police and construction vehicles and a trailer, and setting off fireworks at officers stationed nearby.

The destruction punctuated the end of a demonstration organized to protest what opponents have derided as Cop City, a planned 85‐acre campus that includes classrooms and an amphitheater, and spaces where city police officers will be able to simulate shootouts and high-speed chases and firefighters can learn to drive fire trucks and battle blazes. It was not immediately clear whether anyone was injured.

Tensions have escalated between police officers and protesters over the forested area, which is owned by the city, in recent months. Environmental advocates want the woods — which span more than 1,000 acres — preserved as one of the region’s most significant green spaces. Other activists are concerned that the development of the training site will enable the increased militarization of local police forces.

In January, a confrontation as the police were clearing demonstrators out of the woods left a 26-year-old protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, dead and a state trooper seriously injured.

On Sunday, many demonstrators — a smaller group than the several hundred protesters who attended and stayed behind in an area where music was playing — wore black and camouflage, their faces masked, as they trudged through tall grass and mud to the construction site, uprooting small fences along the way. As vehicles were set ablaze, the police looked on and initially did not intervene but later moved in and made arrests.

An Atlanta Police Department helicopter circled overhead. After a few minutes, the protesters returned to an area where they had been gathering since Saturday, where live music played on speakers.

The plan for the site, which is in DeKalb County, was authorized by the Atlanta City Council in 2021. The proposed fire and police training center is set to include classrooms, an amphitheater, a shooting range and a “mock city for real-world training.” The cost of the center is estimated at $90 million, and a nonprofit organization, the Atlanta Police Foundation, is raising most of it.

Activists opposed to the development began a week of action on Saturday with a rally, a march through the South River Forest and a music and arts festival.

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