More than 20 people, including a Frenchman and a Canadian, were charged Monday in the United States with “domestic terrorism” after taking part in violence against a construction site intended to house a megacenter for police training in Atlanta, according to the forces. of the order.
The project, dubbed “cop city” (“Copville”) by its opponents, has been the subject of fierce protest since its launch in 2021 and the anger of opponents has grown after the death, in January, of an activist during of a confrontation with the police.
Sunday evening, “a group of violent agitators used the pretext of a peaceful demonstration (…) to carry out a coordinated attack against construction equipment and police officers”, declared in an official statement the police of Atlanta, in the south of the country.
After participating in a nearby festival, they “dressed in black, entered the construction site and started throwing stones, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at the police officers”, she added.
No officers were injured, but construction machinery was set on fire, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a press conference.
After reporting 35 arrests, the police communicated on Monday on the accusation of 23 people, from all over the United States, but also from France and Canada, for “domestic terrorism”.
This charge, punishable by 35 years in prison, had already been upheld by the judicial authorities of the State of Georgia during previous scuffles around the site, while violent protesters are usually prosecuted on counts related to the nature of their acts (intrusion, vandalism, destruction, violence, etc.).
Since 2021 and the first announcement of the construction of a training center, intended for the police, but also for firefighters and rescuers, on more than 34 hectares in a wooded area of the metropolis, protest has been mounting against the project.
Sometimes installed in trees destined to be felled, the opponents denounce a future environmental disaster and a waste of money in favor of the police, which would not meet the real needs of the inhabitants.
On January 18, Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, a 26-year-old protester who was camping in a wood intended to be partly razed, was killed by the police.
According to Georgia authorities, a state trooper was first hit in the stomach by a gunshot from Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, before law enforcement responded. Other demonstrators reject the version of the police, highlighting the pacifist profile of the activist nicknamed “Tortuguita”.
An independent autopsy revealed that Manuel Esteban Paez Teran had been hit by 13 shots from different weapons, family lawyers said.