Protesters vandalized vehicles at the site of the new police headquarters in Atlanta

ATLANTA – Hundreds of activists broke into the site of a proposed police and fire training center in a tree-lined suburb of Atlanta on Sunday, torched police and construction vehicles and a trailer, and set off fireworks at officers stationed nearby.

The destruction was halted at the end of a demonstration organized by city police officers against shootings and high-speed chases and what activists taunted as Cop City, a planned 85-acre city-owned campus where firefighters could learn. Drive fire trucks and battle fires. It was not immediately known if anyone was injured.

In the past few months, tensions between police officers and protesters have increased in the area adjacent to the forest. Environmentalists want the forest, which covers more than 1,000 acres, to be preserved as one of the region’s most important green spaces. Other activists are concerned that development of the training base will help increase the militarization of local police forces. Opponents of the training center began organizing against the campus shortly after the Atlanta City Council approved it in 2021.

In January, 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Páez Terran died and a state trooper was seriously injured in clashes as police cleared protesters from the woods.

On Sunday, many of the demonstrators — who joined a subset of several hundred protesters and stayed in the area where the music was playing — grabbed small items as they walked through tall grass and mud to the construction site, dressed in black and camouflage, with their faces covered. Fences in the way. As vehicles were torched, the police watched, first not intervening, then moving in and making arrests. The Atlanta Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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An Atlanta police helicopter hovered overhead. Minutes later, the protesters returned to the area where they had gathered since Saturday, where live music blared over loudspeakers.

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

Activists against the development kicked off a week of action on Saturday with a rally, a march through South River Forest and a music and arts festival.

Blue Bohra Contributed report.

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