Protesters camped out on wooded land where Atlanta plans to build a police training facility said they were attacked Dec. 12 by police using tear gas and pepper spray.
The police started “raiding” an area near Intrenchment Creek in Southwest DeKalb early Tuesday morning, according to social media accounts used by “Defend the Atlanta Forest” activists. The protesters said police used “chemical weapons” against activists sitting in trees in the area.
Marlon Kautz of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provides support to those arrested at protests, said Tuesday afternoon his organization confirmed via video footage and witness accounts that police used plastic bullets, tear gas and pepper spray against people sitting in trees.
He said one person was arrested and protesters suffered injuries from the tear gas. How many protesters were sitting in trees is not known.
“According to what we know is that protesters are doing nonviolent, civil disobedience,” Kautz said in an interview at the corner of Boulder Walk Drive and Key Road, near the Boulder Walk subdivision entrance.
“They’re sitting in the trees, refusing to come down and are singing protest songs. And they’re being fired on by plastic bullets,” Kautz said. “That’s why I’m out here today, because our organization is very concerned about this disproportionate use of force.”
Kautz also said police detained people attempting to take video recordings of what was happening in the forest. He did not know if they were arrested.
“But police seem to be hostile to witnesses documenting what’s going on, and that’s understandable because what they’re doing is unconscionable,” he said.
Atlanta Police and Georgia State Patrol officers blocked Key Road near Boulder Walk Drive for several hours Monday afternoon to keep motorists and pedestrians from walking toward Intrenchment Creek. Neither agency responded to a request for comment on what their role was in the apparent raid.
DeKalb County Police blocked West Side Place off Constitution Road to keep people from entering Intrenchment Creek park. At nearby Gresham Park, dozens of DeKalb law enforcement vehicles packed the parking lot as a “command center,” according to one officer. A bomb squad and SWAT truck were at Gresham Park, as well as ambulances and a truck labeled “negotiations.”
None of the DeKalb authorities at Gresham Park would talk about what was described as an “investigation” and said to contact the DeKalb Police spokesperson for information. The PIO has not yet responded.
Activists have been protesting for close to two years Atlanta’s plans to build a police training center on an 85-acre, city-owned property off Key Road in DeKalb County.
The $90 million facility will be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, which has pledged to transform the remaining 260 acres into a public greenspace and urban forest.
Atlanta Police arrested several protesters off Key Road in May after they allegedly threw rocks and Molotov cocktails toward officers.
Last month, Molotov cocktails were thrown toward AT&T workers and a road was blocked with trees that had been chopped down on the property, according to the Saporta Report.
On Dec. 10, protestors threw objects at DeKalb firefighters dispatched to the Key Road site after reports of a dumpster fire.
There are also those in the forest protesting DeKalb County’s decision to swap 40 acres of existing parkland at Intrenchment Creek to Blackhall Studios in exchange for 53 acres that the county says it will convert into a new park.