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A news file photo from January 2023 after the death of protestor Manuel Teran at the site of a planned police training compound in Atlanta nicknamed "Copy City." Violent protests over the weekend prompted 23 arrests of domestic terrorism at the site. (Photo by CHENEY ORR/AFP via Getty Images)

23 ‘Cop City’ Protestors Arrested, Charged with Domestic Terrorism

A week-long planned protest at a first responder training construction site outside Atlanta, Georgia, took a turn on Sunday when a group of people attempted to destroy construction equipment and clashed with police. Authorities detained more than 30 people, and on Monday charged 23 of them with domestic terrorism.

"A group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers," according to a statement from the Atlanta Police Department. "They changed into black clothing and entered the construction area and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers."

The incident took place at what protestors have dubbed “Cop City,” a semi-forested location on the outskirts of Atlanta, where the U.S. state plans to build a compound that will serve as a training ground for police and first responders.

The current plans call for a training compound on 85 acres and costing an estimated $90 million. It will include a firing range, a tactical training building, and a burn building, among other training areas.

The alleged agitators destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment with fire and vandalism. Multiple law enforcement agencies deployed to the area and detained several people who are charged with committing illegal activity. Authorities have detained 35 people so far, the police department said. Of the 23 people charged so far, only two are from Georgia.

With protests planned for the coming days, the Atlanta Police Department, in collaboration with law enforcement partners, have a multi-layered strategy that includes reaction and arrest. It is also urging the rest of the week's planned protests to remain peaceful.


The compound has become a flashpoint of protest against police brutality in  Atlanta. The city approved the site of the training compound in what The Washington Post described as a predominantly Black area of Dekalb County in 2021. The action rekindled the unrest that occurred the year before when  Black Lives Matter protests spread across the country, including in Atlanta, after police killed George Floyd in Minnesota, and the site has been the focus of protests ever since. A group of “well stocked” protestors began living in the forest, the Post reported.

Eventually, a semi-organized protest movement called Stop Cop City emerged to support protestors of the site. The group’s website quoted one site opponent, Kwame Olufemi from Community Movement Builders, as saying, “To be clear—cop city is not just a controversial training center. It is a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill black people and control our bodies and movements. The facility includes shooting ranges, plans for bomb testing, and will practice tear gas deployment. They are practicing how to make sure poor and working class people stay in line.”

In January, a protest at the site turned deadly when police say Florida State University student Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, who was protesting at the site, fired a gun at a police officer. Police returned fire, killing Terán. Activists dispute police accounts, and the incident led to violent protests that spread to downtown Atlanta.

“As I’ve said before, domestic terrorism will not be tolerated in this state,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said in a statement on Monday. “As we continue to respect peaceful protest, we will also continue to ensure safety in our communities. We will not rest until those who use violence and intimidation for an extremist end are brought to full justice.”