Violent protests have erupted in downtown Atlanta over the US police killing of an environmental activist, with several demonstrators being arrested by the police.
Environmental and social justice activists took to the streets on Saturday in the capital of the US state of Georgia to protest the “cold blooded” police killing of 26-year-old Manuel Teran.
An eyewitness at the rally reported that the demonstration started peacefully, then briefly turned violent after some protesters set a police car on fire, threw fireworks and rocks, and smashed buildings' windows.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum announced at a news conference on Saturday night that six protesters had been arrested at the protest rally.
Three businesses were damaged and a police car was set on fire, Schierbaum added.
Of those who were arrested, several had explosives on them and do not live in the Atlanta area, or in Georgia, said Andre Dickens, Atlanta's Mayor.
The protests came after Teran was shot and killed by police during a raid on Wednesday against environmental activists, who gathered to protest at the construction site of “Cop City”, a massive law enforcement facility to be built inside Weelaunee People's Park.
Belkis Teran, Manuel's mother from Panama City, told the Guardian: “I will go to the US to defend Manuel’s memory … I’m convinced that he was assassinated in cold blood.”
Meanwhile, circumstances surrounding the police killing of Teran are still unclear and there are demands for a thorough investigation into the incident and the way it could have happened.
The police killing of Teran involved dozens of law enforcement officers from Atlanta police, Dekalb county police, Georgia state patrol, the Georgia bureau of investigation and the FBI.
In the raid operation on “Cop City”, the police had aimed to clear out the encampments set up by the environmental activists who have been protesting against the "Cop City" project since 2021.
However, Georgia officials say Teran had first fired unprovoked shots at police officers after failing to comply with commands, while activist groups reject the account and say it is false or questionable.
Defend the Atlanta Forest wrote on Twitter that an officer who was shot during the raid "was hit by ‘friendly fire’ and not by the protester who was killed.”
“To our knowledge so far, we find it less than likely that the police version of events is what really happened,” local organizer Kamau Franklin of Community Movement Builders told Democracy Now. “The idea that he was sitting in a tent and fired out of the tent at basically a SWAT team.”
“Resident say they heard a blast of gunshots all at once, not one blast then a return of fire,” Kamau pointed out.
Activist groups have called on city officials to release the name of the law enforcement officers involved in the shooting, as well as body camera footage of what happened.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, whose officers were involved in the raid, will investigate the death of the environmental activist, Fox 5 Atlanta reported, adding that seven others were arrested on Wednesday on domestic terrorism charges in the raid that killed Teran.
Five others were arrested late last year on similar charges for their ties to the forest movement.
The "Cop City" project, which is slated to open later this year, is paid for jointly by the city of Atlanta and the private Atlanta Police Foundation, which counts as donors and board members of major corporations like Amazon, Chick-fil-A, and Delta Airlines.
The facility, which is expected to feature a “mock village” with a full fake nightclub and convenience store for training scenarios, has attracted widespread local opposition, from groups ranging from civil rights protesters to environmentalists to native groups, who argue the facility is the latest reminder of how the Muscogee Creek were violently pushed off the forest land in the 1800s.
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