Atlanta Police said seven activists protesting the controversial police and fire training center in DeKalb County were arrested May 17 and face charges ranging from criminal trespass to obstruction of law enforcement officers. State and federal law enforcement officials are also involved in investigating the incident.
Rocks and two lit Molotov cocktails were thrown at police officers as they accompanied a contractor working on the forested 85-acre site off Key Road, according to police. The Molotov cocktails caused two small fires that had to be extinguished, police said. No one was injured.
Assistant Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a press conference that police were at the city-owned site to remove “illegal structures” when the incidents occurred. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the Molotov cocktail devices — glass containers filled with an accelerant, he said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also involved.
“There have been a number of concerted efforts to stop the public safety training center by committing criminal acts here in Atlanta, in DeKalb County, in Birmingham, Ala., and other states, and we appreciate the Federal Bureau of Investigation for joining this investigation,” Schierbaum said.
Most of those arrested were from out of state, he said. He said late Tuesday afternoon some activists remained on the property and face arrest if they do not leave. The land where the training center is planned is not a public park, he added.
“We will not be deterred by the acts of a few that do not represent our community and our community values,” he said.
Activists opposed to the building of the police and fire training center they have dubbed “Cop City” held their own press conference May 17. They said police armed with assault rifles were “aggressive” when making arrests.
May Johnson, who lives near the site where the police and fire training center is planned, said the May 17 arrests were the police department’s attempt “to demoralize a vibrant and diverse movement” attempting to prevent construction on what is known as the Atlanta Forest and the Weelaunee Forest.
The property is on the South River watershed and razing acres of trees to build would harm the environment, Johnson said. She also said the forest is the ancestral home of the Muscogee Nation and where the old Atlanta Prison Farm was located.
“This land is not only the lungs of Atlanta, due to it being ecologically critical to the city’s survival. It’s a sight of the scars of Atlanta’s past,” Johnson said.
Last year, the City Council approved a ground lease for the 85-acre, city-owned property off Key Road in DeKalb County. The $90 million facility will be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, which has pledged to transform the remaining 260 acres into a public greenspace and urban forest.
Update: This story has been updated to correct that seven people were arrested, not eight. Atlanta Police released the names of those arrested. They are all charged with criminal trespass. One person is also charged with giving a false name. They are: Phillip Flagg, 28, Worchester, Mass.; Lee Ana-Gypsy, 38, Gainesville, Ga.; Elizabeth Hoitt-Lange, 24, Sea Cliff, NY; Erin Brault, 27, Sykesville, Md.; Madeleine Kodat, 28, Philadelphia, Pa.; and Brooke Courtemanche, 26, Wooster, Ohio. Abigail Skapyak, 23, of Minneapolis, Minn., is charged with criminal trespass and giving a false name.