Before deadly confrontation, activists demanded DA drop charges against ‘Cop City’ protestorsPeople held signs and chanted "Stop Cop City" and "Drop the Charges" during a rally outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in Decatur on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, to demand District Attorney Sherry Boston drop all charges against six individuals arrested Dec. 13 & 14, 2022, during a police raid at the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, the site of the proposed 85-acre police/fire training facility for the city of Atlanta, dubbed “Cop City” by opponents. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
By Dean Hesse and Dan Whisenhunt
DeKalb County, GA — The debate over the controversial police training center became a deadly one on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
According to police, a protestor and a Georgia State Trooper exchanged gunfire as police cleared the site of the future police training center, an 85-acre police/fire training facility located in DeKalb County’s South River Forest. Activists call it “Cop City.” The officer received a gunshot wound, but is expected to survive. The unnamed activist died, and several others on the scene were arrested.
The GBI is investigating the shooting.
“At about 9 a.m. today, as law enforcement was moving through the property, officers located a man inside a tent in the woods,” the GBI said in a press release. “Officers gave verbal commands to the man, who did not comply and shot a Georgia State Patrol Trooper. Other law enforcement officers returned fire, hitting the man. Law enforcement evacuated the Trooper to a safe area. The man died on scene. The injured Georgia State Patrol Trooper was taken to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery. A handgun and shell casings were located at the scene. The GBI is working the officer involved shooting and the investigation is still active and ongoing. The identification of the man who died is pending next of kin notification.
“During the planned operation, several people were arrested and taken to the DeKalb County Jail. Charges are pending and updates will be provided later.”
Whether the activists arrested on Jan. 18 will be charged with “domestic terrorism” like a group of Cop City protestors arrested in December, remains to be seen. This morning, Jan. 19, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that five arrested by GBI on Wednesday are facing “domestic terrorism” charges, though the people arrested on Wednesday haven’t been identified.
The “domestic terrorism” charges against activists have added fuel to the fiery Cop City controversy and prompted activists to gather in front of the county courthouse on Monday, Jan. 16 to demand District Attorney Sherry Boston drop the charges. County offices were closed Monday due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputies did appear briefly at the event before going back inside the county courthouse.
More than 100 people attended Monday’s event outside the courthouse.
Speakers included representatives from Community Movement Builders, Beloved Commune, A World Without Police, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Palestinian Youth Movement, Women on the Rise and Cooperation Jackson.
“On this day, on Martin Luther King Day we are celebrating somebody that was part of a rich tradition of direct action to make sure people had rights in the future,” Matthew Johnson, interim executive director of Beloved Commune told Decaturish. “That fight has never stopped, it’s never stopped in Atlanta, his hometown and what we find ourselves fighting against now is the further militarization of police in this country at the same time that we are seeing record disparities in wealth and a defunding of social services that’s leading to the type of scare state that creates desperation and has a much clearer tie to the rise in crime.”
Johnson said reducing poverty will reduce crime and that more policing won’t solve the problem.
“We have seen over and over again that when we are taking care of people’s basic needs, that is a much better predictor of lower crime rate than anything else,” Johnson said. “We’ve been raising the police budget. Atlanta is the most surveilled city in the country because of the 2017 Operation Shield program with the Atlanta Police Foundation. At the same time, we’ve seen rises in crime, so what we’re saying is let’s get back to those root causes that create the environment in which people are much more willing to turn their backs on their neighbors and address that first.”
Bisan from Palestinian Youth Movement said in a press release that the activists, called “forest defenders” by their colleagues, “are being held on egregious, spurious charges of domestic terrorism.” The press release did not give Bisan’s last name.
“This isn’t something new,” Bisan said. “This is a tool of suppression used against grassroots organizers in the state of Georgia and across the U.S… Our resistance is a logical and human response to this violence.”
Here are more photos from Monday’s event:
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