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Protester Killed at Planned Atlanta Police Training Center

Tensions over a planned Atlanta police training center erupted on Wednesday when a protester was killed and a Georgia state trooper was wounded during a confrontation in the wooded area just outside the city where the center will be built. The shootings happened as police worked to clear protesters out of the woods, according to law enforcement officials and activists who oppose the center. At least four people were detained in the sweep, reports the New York Times. The plans for the training center call for it to be built on 85 acres of forested land, and include an area for police trainees to learn vehicle skills and a mock village, with space for facsimiles of a nightclub, a convenience store, and homes to practice different tactics in an array of settings. The proposal has been assailed from the outset by critics of the Atlanta Police Department who have described the $90 million development — derisively nicknamed “Cop City” — as a dangerous investment in militarizing law enforcement. Activists have moved into the forest, and their efforts to block construction have escalated in recent months into violent confrontations with law enforcement officers.

The circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting remained unclear, with investigators disclosing few details of what happened and activists challenging the official description of events. Director Michael Register of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said there was an exchange of gunfire on Wednesday morning during a “planned clearing operation” by law enforcement agencies in the forest. Register said that a person shot “without warning,” hitting the trooper, and officers returned fire. The person who was killed was not publicly identified “No one can bring our friend back to us,” the activists said in a statement published by the Atlanta Community Press Collective, a digital outlet aligned with the protesters. “An innocent life has been taken and the machines continue.” Authorities sought to portray the actions of those involved with the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” effort as perpetrating something more sinister. “These individuals and groups have attempted to disguise their activities as being protests,” Register said, adding that “law enforcement and portions of our community have experienced growing criminal behavior and terroristic acts.” He said the activists had been accused of arson and setting traps in the woods capable of causing serious physical harm. Last month, prosecutors took the unusual step of charging six people connected to the Defend the Atlanta Forest effort with domestic terrorism. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia vowed to maintain the aggressive approach and said, “The only response we will give to intimidation and violence is swift and exact justice."


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