Local Atlantans and visiting activists from around the country assembled Monday to attend a day of protests dubbed “Block Cop City.” The event was just the latest mass demonstration in over two years of resistance against the construction of a vast police training facility, known as Cop City, over hundreds of acres of Atlanta’s forest land, according to The Intercept. Police reacted by attacking a slow-moving, peaceful march with tear gas and rubber bullets. The protest activities, as had been agreed on in the prior days, would not involve property damage to construction vehicles at the site of the planned police facility. Monday’s participants planned simply to march, carrying banners and giant handmade puppets, to the Cop City construction area where they would plant nearly 100 saplings on cleared forest land.
Soon after the march, police in riot gear amassed to block demonstrators’ route to the forest. Dozens of police vehicles swarmed the area, including an armored urban tank dubbed “the Beast.” The police moved in with shields and batons, shooting rubber bullets and launching flash-bang grenades and tear-gas canisters at the group. “Despite numerous stated commitments from religious leaders and city officials to honor the right to protest, armed riot police terrorized the crowd with tear gas grenades, attack dogs, clubs, and ballistic shields,” said the Block Cop City organizers in a statement following the march. Following Monday’s demonstration, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum held a press briefing to defend the use of tear gas and other weapons. He claimed the protesters were “prepared to do harm” and pointed to a line of gardening tools police had taken from the march site. “People were really ready to plant trees,” said an organizer who helped bring 75 oak seedlings, 25 pines, and elderberry cuttings to the event.