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6 arrested in Atlanta amid protests over police training center plans, activist's fatal shooting

By Allen Cone

Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Six people were arrested amid protests in response to a proposed training facility and fatal shooting of an activist in Atlanta. No one was injured, police said.

It was a peaceful event Saturday night at an Underground Atlanta plaza until a group within the crowd began "committing illegal acts," including breaking windows and attacking police cruisers, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said in a news conference.

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Activists dressed in all black with masks over their faces, activists threw rocks and reportedly lit fireworks in front of a building that houses the Atlanta Police Foundation.

Schierbaum said those arrested "chose to take the First Amendment as a shield of illegal activity, and we stopped the protesters that were acting illegally."

Three businesses had window damage, he said.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that breaking windows and setting fires is not protests. That is terrorism," Schierbaum said. "And they will be charged accordingly."

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said at the news conference authorities confiscated explosives from some of the arrested demonstrators.

"The city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department will not tolerate this, and we continue to protect the right to peacefully protest. We will not tolerate violence or property destruction," Dickens said. "My message is simple to those who seek to continue this type of criminal behavior: We will find you and we will arrest you and you will be held accountable."

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Dickens voted in favor of the planned $90 million, 85-acre law enforcement training facility in 2021 dubbed by opponents as "Cop City."

A 26-year-old activist was shot dead by police near the site of the training center on Wednesday after he shot a state trooper.

Dickens said many arrested "don't even live in Atlanta or in the state of Georgia" and some were found "with explosives."

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted that the media should not label the damage as a protest.

"Peaceful protestors use words. Rioters smash windows, set police cars on fire & shoot law enforcement officers," Carr tweeted. "Stop calling these people protesters."

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