Jan 19, 2023 - Business

Fatal shooting at "Cop City" opens new chapter in movement

Police officers in tactical and protective gear hang on to the side of a SWAT truck

DeKalb and Atlanta SWAT members participating in a "clearing operation" at the site of Atlanta's proposed public safety training center leave from the Gresham Park command post. Photo: John Spink/AJC

A yearlong standoff between law enforcement and activists protesting Atlanta's public safety training center boiled over into a fatal clash Wednesday, leaving residents, city officials and activists to ask what's next.

Driving the news: One protester is dead and a Georgia state trooper is recovering at Grady Memorial Hospital after a shooting near the future site of the proposed $90 million complex dubbed "Cop City" by opponents.

  • The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.

Why it matters: The shooting has ratcheted up the tension in what's now a violent conflict in deep forested land outside the view of most media and the public.

What's happening: It's unclear whether activists and encampments will continue to occupy the woods and, if so, the violence has emboldened either side to step up their tactics or stand down.

  • Defend the Forest activists told Axios in a statement that their campaign not only includes encampments but street protests, fundraisers, watchdog journalism, legal advocacy, pressuring investors and community meetings.
  • Solidarity vigils are also planned for this week in other cities.
  • "No one can speak for what all the many groups involved in the movement will do, but so far all the police violence the movement has faced has only multiplied the many strategies and tactics that different coalitions organize," they said.

The big picture: Consistent dueling narratives from the activists and law enforcement have made figuring out what’s happening in the woods a difficult task.

Catch up quick: GBI Director Mike Register said an individual "confronted law enforcement" and shot the trooper during a "clearing operation" to remove the protesters "illegally occupying the property."

  • Officers returned fire, killing the alleged shooter, who has not yet been identified. The trooper, whose name was also not released, underwent surgery and was hospitalized in stable condition.

The other side: According to a statement released by the Atlanta Community Press Collective, which supports the resistance effort, "dozens of heavily armed officers" entered the forest "with guns drawn and heavy machinery poised to continue forest destruction.”

What we're watching: Register said that four other people were detained Wednesday and charges could be forthcoming.

  • Five activists were charged with domestic terrorism in a crackdown at the site last month.

Editor's note: Cox Enterprises chairman and CEO Alex Taylor, a former chair of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, led a campaign to raise private funds for the project. Cox owns Axios.


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