At least eight far-left extremists have been arrested after they allegedly threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Atlanta police responding to an ongoing protest in forested area where a new police and EMS training facility will be built.
The group, who have dubbed themselves the "forest defenders," have set up camp on the grounds, which are set aside for the 85-acre project, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Atlanta police said that a number of illegal structures had been built on the property, which is owned by the city.
On Tuesday, activists allegedly threw Molotov cocktails toward police while hiding in the bushes/trees of the autonomous zone. It burst into flames just yards away from where three officers were standing, according to Fox News. The fire department responded just moments later to put out the blaze.
Police also responded to reports of an incendiary device found on nearby Key Road that did not ignite.
In a Tuesday press conference, Atlanta Police Department Assistant Chief D. Schierbaum said that police had been at the property that day to escort construction personnel through the site when the attack began.
Schierbaum explained that eight had been arrested in connection to the day’s incident, and that charges range from "criminal trespass to obstruction of law enforcement officers."
Among those arrested on Tuesday were: Ana Gypsy Lee, 38; Brooke Courtmanche, 26; Phillip A Flagg, 28; Elizabeth Hoitt-Lange, 24; Madeleine Kodat, 28; Erin Brault, 27; and Abigail E. Skapyak, 23, who also faces a charge of giving a false name.
Notably, Skapyak was a Department of Justice intern in 2020 in their Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.
She was also arrested in 2021 Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, for rioting. Rioting had broken out in that city after Daunte Wright was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop.
Despite claims from far-left activists that Molotov cocktails were not thrown, body camera footage shows the three officers standing at the construction site when an activist threw one nearby.
According to the far-left media outlet Unicorn Riot, a truck barricade was set on fire amidst the police raid of the compound.
"We do know there's other people that are on the property now. We're asking them to leave. It’s illegal to be on the property. There's not public access here. And so if those individuals leave, there will be no arrest. But if you do remain on site of the property intending to harm law enforcement officials to obstruct the property of the city of Atlanta will be arrested," said Schierbaum.
The activists have called the occupation of the private land "No Cop City," in reference to the public safety build.
Additional arrests were made on May 12, after rioters vandalized the Cumberland offices of contractor Brasfield and Gorrie, the firm which is involved in the building of the training complex.
Activists allegedly shot fireworks at the office building, causing the grass to catch fire. Three windows were also allegedly broken with "paint bombs."
Tyler John Norman Katie Marie Kloth, Hannah Margaret Kass, Joseph William Turner, and Julian Adan Goldberg were all arrested and face a range of charges including rioting, making terroristic threats, and criminal property damage, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Schierbaum noted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was in attendance, adding that those who had been arrested and claimed to be from the local area were actually responding to calls for the occupation of the land from out of state.
GoFundMe fundraisers have been set up by other far-left activists to fund travel to the Atlanta forrest.
The group is also using Open Collective to purchase supplies for their encampment, including surveillance items like "forest monitoring equipment" as well as drone.
"There has been a number of concerted efforts in stopping the public safety training center by committing criminal acts here in Atlanta, in Cobb County, in Birmingham, Alabama, and other states. And we appreciate the Federal Bureau of Investigation joining this investigation to stop these attempts on the foundation, to stop these criminal acts for this public sector training center," said Schierbaum.
"The majority of individuals that are being arrested here in Cobb County and other places have driver's license from Pennsylvania, from Tennessee, from Rhode Island, from Virginia, from New York and from Minnesota," he added.
"We will not be deterred by the acts of a few that do not represent our community and our community values," he said.
According to Fox 5, these "forest defenders" have been camping on the property since last year. They have reportedly driven spikes into the trees, making it dangerous to cut the trees within the forest down.
According to the Atlanta Police Foundation, this Safety Training Center will include areas for fire, EMS, and police trainings, including a mock city, fire training facilities, a shooting range, and classroom buildings.
This site will reportedly "Embrace police reform and cultural sensitivity through an extensive training and educational partnership with the National Center for Civil & Human Rights."
Parts will also be open to the community, including walking paths, picnic areas, a community garden, and a weekly farmers market.
Andy Ngo contributed to this report.