(NewsNation) — More than a dozen arrests have been made in the last week as protests over the construction of a police training facility just outside Atlanta turned violent.
The death of one of those protesters, who authorities say exchanged gunfire with police before ultimately being shot and killed by officers, set off a firestorm in the city.
Demonstrators have smashed windows and burned police vehicles. Several prominent state leaders have condemned the violence in Atlanta, saying things have gone too far.
The mayor and police chief have both spoken out on this issue, calling some of the severe charges that protesters are now facing justified.
The 26-year-old environmental activist who was killed Wednesday, Manuel Esteban Paez, was protesting a planned Atlanta-area public safety training center that protesters have dubbed “Cop City.”
Protesters say the $90 million project would be environmentally damaging, and they oppose investing money in what they call a facility used to practice “urban warfare.”
“We don’t necessarily believe the police narrative on this issue,” said Kamau Franklin, an organizer with Community Movement Builders. “We’re supposed to believe that someone sitting in a cloth tent decided to fire first at a police, a dozen police officers, basically committing suicide.”
In the wake of the activist’s death, masked protesters in downtown Atlanta on Saturday were seen throwing rocks, smashing windows and lighting a police vehicle on fire.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that breaking windows is not a protest, that is terrorism, and they will be charged accordingly,” Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said.
Six people were arrested and are now facing a slew of charges, including domestic terrorism.
“Many of them don’t even live in Atlanta or the state of Georgia, and they don’t represent the voices of Atlanta,” said Mayor Andre Dickens.
Five of the six people taken into custody are from out of state, and two of the six have reportedly been released on bond.
A NewsNation investigation confirmed that all of those arrested come from affluent upbringings. The father of one of the protesters is a surgeon and has family living near Walker’s Point Estate, the summer retreat of the Bush family in Maine.
Michel R. Huff, an attorney and criminal justice expert, questioned whether the bail of $355,000 set for one of the suspects is enough.
“For most people, they don’t just have a rainy-day bond fund sitting around, so that’s pretty steep. On the other hand, though, when you’re looking at domestic terrorism and arson, is it high enough?” Huff said.
In Boston, a fatal shooting earlier this month in nearby Cambridge sparked protests Saturday night over police use-of-force policies. Authorities say a 20-year-old student advanced on police with a sword, and less-than-lethal means failed to stop him before he was shot and killed by police.
During the protest, the daughter of House Minority Whip Katherine Clark was arrested for allegedly spray-painting a monument and hitting an officer in the face.
“Last night my daughter was arrested in Boston. I love Riley, and this is a difficult time. This will be evaluated by the legal system, and I am confident in that process,” Clark said in a statement on Twitter.
The Boston protest was reportedly also conducted in a show of solidarity with demonstrators in Atlanta.