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Atlanta mayor talks about training facility opposition, vandalism

The mayor claimed there have been people exploiting the construction of the public safety training center as a way to commit violence in the community.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is bringing attention to violent acts that have occurred across the metro due to opposition against the new public safety training center being constructed in the city.

Opponents of the facility have called the new site “Cop City.” 

Dickens held a news conference Wednesday afternoon with Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith, and leadership from the FBI and ATF at his side as he talked about the “violent actors.” The mayor claimed there have been people exploiting the construction of the facility as a way to commit violence in the community. 

“These acts of violence see no prejudice towards any facility,” the mayor said. “This violence is happening throughout the metro.”

Dickens said that law enforcement and other agencies have responded to about two dozen acts of arson or vandalism. There’s also been about $10 million worth of construction and property damage done across metro Atlanta.

RELATED: ‘Stop Cop City’ attacks cause costs to rise for public safety training center: officials

Schierbaum brought attention to a recent scene where he said APD’s mounted patrol was targeted.

“They took credit most recently on April 6 and said ‘yes,’ they were… the ones that went into an Atlanta Police facility, cut the fence and while they were able to lure one horse out, the other horses remained in the facility,” he said. 

Schierbaum said the “anarchists” also asked others to do similar acts and identify what other police facilities are vulnerable and be creative in attacking them. The police chief added that they’ve seen violence happen in Henry County, where vehicles were set on fire.

“This department is committed wholeheartedly to make sure that individuals using fear and fire on our streets… will be held accountable,” Schierbaum added. 

While Dickens said he supports nonviolent protest — a nod to Atlanta’s history in the Civil Rights Movement — he said city leaders have not observed a protest for equality, “but a way to vandalize our communities.”

“These continuous acts are not about advocating for equality, they are about vandalism and about destruction,” the mayor said. “This destruction is happening in Atlanta and around the metro Atlanta region.”

Dickens claimed there have been people exploiting the construction of the public safety training center as a way to commit violence in the community. 

“These acts of violence see no prejudice towards any facility,” the mayor said. “This violence is happening throughout the metro.”

“They do not want metro Atlanta to have safety. They do not care about peace or about our communities. These acts of destruction must end, they must stop,” Dickens added. “These are not MLK versions of peaceful, nonviolent protest, to the contrary. These are arsons, vandals, they are destructive, and they have committed violence.”

Dickens referenced the incident that happened a few weeks ago. First responders had to be called to the scene to rescue people who scaled up a massive crane.

“They needed our fire rescue department and police department to get them down while they were protesting our fire rescue department and police department. The irony can’t be missed,” he said. 

RELATED: Arson suspected after fires spark, equipment burned at Fayetteville construction site: officials

Even though these acts of protests have occurred, Dickens said the training center is well on its way with construction. The plan is to have it completed this year. He said these distractions will not stop them. 

Some have opposed the facility on environmental and historical grounds, saying it would decimate one of the largest preserved forest areas in the city and desecrate the historically Native American land of the Muscogee Creek people. Others also oppose it on the grounds that the land was once the site of the Old Prison Farm. 

Supporters have argued the training site will have a much-needed modernizing effect on the police force and others who work in public safety.

The police chief said a $200,000 reward is available for information on those who continue to start fires in opposition to the public safety training facility. He said some arrests have been made, and others are coming. 

“This is anarchism, this is arson and we have laws on the books for that, that the community supports,” Dickens said. 

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