Five people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism in Atlanta on Tuesday after a clash between activists and law enforcement at a site set to be turned into a state-of-the-art training facility for police, state investigators said.
The planned $90 million, 85-acre Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is to be built in a forested area of Dekalb County that used to be a prison farm. The proposed facility will include a shooting range, mock city and burn building, CNN has previously reported.
Activists determined to stop the project – dubbed “Cop City” – have camped out in the forest’s trees and have said they do not plan to leave.
On Tuesday, several police agencies entered the site as part of a joint operation to remove barricades that were blocking some of the entrances to the center, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
“Yesterday, several people threw rocks at police cars and attacked EMT’s outside the neighboring fire stations with rocks and bottles,” the bureau said Wednesday. “Task force members used various tactics to arrest individuals who were occupying makeshift treehouses.”
The bureau said police cleared the area of makeshift treehouses and later found explosive devices, gasoline and road flares.
The five people who were arrested come from all over the country, including Maine, California and Wisconsin, according to the bureau. They have been booked into the Dekalb County jail, and CNN is attempting to make contact with those charged.
A public information officer for the Atlanta Police Department said the agency did not have information to add.
The investigation is ongoing, police said. Once it’s complete, police will work with the state attorney general’s office and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, the GBI said.
The location has previously been the site of a series of incidents, including carjacking, destruction of property, arson, and attacks against public safety officials, according to the bureau. On Saturday, police said people threw objects at firefighters who were responding to a dumpster fire, according to CNN affiliate WXIA.
“Law enforcement continues to address the criminal acts committed by the individuals that continue to occupy the area of the proposed training site,” the GBI said.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a statement commending law enforcement for the arrests.
“We will not stop or slow down when it comes to bringing domestic terrorists to justice in Georgia, and yesterday’s arrests should serve as a strong reminder of that to anyone threatening our communities,” he said.
“This group will continue to work closely together as we disrupt the entire criminal network and ensure construction for the first responder training facility moves forward,” he added.
The Atlanta Police Foundation has said the center is needed to help boost morale and recruitment efforts, and previous facilities law enforcement has used are substandard, while fire officials now train in “borrowed facilities.” The police foundation, a nonprofit established in 2003, helps fund local policing initiatives through public-private partnerships. Among those sitting on its board of trustees are leaders of UPS, Wells Fargo, The Home Depot, Equifax and Delta Air Lines.
The plan to build the facility has been met with fierce resistance from a community still reeling from monthslong demonstrations protesting police brutality and racial injustice. Some locals say the city’s announcement blindsided neighbors and the development process since has largely been a secretive one with limited input from the most affected communities.
For others, the facility poses environmental concerns at a time when the deadly impacts of climate change have become hard to ignore: The training center would carve out a chunk of forested land Atlanta leaders previously seemed to agree to preserve, though the city says officials are committed to replacing trees destroyed in construction.