23 people charged with domestic terrorism after attack on Atlanta police center 'Cop City'
Authorities charged 23 people with domestic terrorism after more than a hundred protesters dressed in black breached a proposed police and fire training center site in Atlanta Sunday, burning vehicles and setting off fireworks toward officers stationed nearby, according to police.
The Atlanta Police Department said 35 people were detained and accused the crowd of throwing bricks, large rocks and Molotov cocktails at police officers.
No officers were injured, but several pieces of construction equipment were set on fire, Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum said during a press conference around midnight.
The incident took place at a planned training center that opponents call "Cop City," where a 26-year-old who went by the name Tortuguita was fatally shot and a state trooper was injured in January in what officers dubbed a self-defense shooting.
On Monday, Atlanta police identified 23 people charged in the attack on the site. Police said they each were charged with one count of domestic terrorism.
All but two of the accused, police said, are from out of state. Those charged ranged in age from 18 to 48.
Previously:Authorities identify person killed at Atlanta's 'Cop City' training center site
“Actions such as this will not be tolerated,” Schierbaum told reporters. “When you attack law enforcement officers, when you damage equipment, you are breaking the law.”
Atlanta police could not immediately be reached by USA TODAY Monday morning to say if any additional people had been detained or what charges those taken into custody are facing.
Video captured incident
Video released by the department shows dozens of masked people dressed in all black scurrying around the site, some carrying what appear to be duffle bags and large shields.
Investigators believe members of the crowd attended a nearby music festival before beginning what police called a “coordinated attack” at the site in DeKalb County, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
What is the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, or 'Cop City'?
Police said the $90 million project will host police, fire and emergency first responders and feature classrooms, a shooting range, a mock village and more – but groups protesting against it view the planned center as an effort to further “militarize” Atlanta's police as well as a blow to the environment of the area, which they say should be preserved.
Activists have been occupying the area they derisively call "Cop City" since late 2021 in an attempt to halt the project, but the site has drawn increased attention since protester Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, or Tortuguita, was killed on Jan. 18 after he shot and injured a state trooper while authorities cleared activists from the forested site, authorities have said.
A coalition of law enforcement agencies claims the groups are terrorizing project workers and endangering local residents.
According to a statement released in late January by the Altanta Community Press Collective, which has supported the activists, "dozens of heavily armed" law enforcement officers entered "the tree line with guns drawn and heavy machinery poised to continue forest destruction."
"Police killed a forest defender for loving this earth, for taking a stand against the ongoing destruction of the planet and its people," the statement said.
According to city leaders, the center represents "a much-needed and long-overdue" training facility for local police officers and firefighters.
Schierbaum described Sunday's incident as “a very violent attack."
"This wasn’t about a public safety training center," he added.
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Authorities plan for more demonstrations
Multiple law enforcement agencies were deployed to the area and detained several people police said, adding officers "used nonlethal enforcement" to make arrests.
Atlanta police said several local agencies and the Georgia State Patrol assisted Atlanta officers during the incident. Both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and FBI were also notified and are assisting with the investigation, Atlanta police said.
Authorities were planning for more protests planned this week, the Atlanta Police Department said.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.