- By Tom Spender and Max Matza
- BBC News
Georgia police have filed terror charges against 23 protesters accused of attacking officers at an event against a planned police training site.
Police say the group left the larger protest to throw “large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks” at officers and construction equipment.
Hundreds of people attended a concert at the construction site on Sunday, and 35 were arrested amid violent clashes.
The planned training centre in Atlanta has been dubbed “Cop City” by critics.
Critics say the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center will fuel police brutality and also uses valuable forest land owned by the city of six million.
Police said the group of protesters had used the peaceful demonstration during a music festival at the site as cover to “conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers”.
Several pieces of construction equipment were destroyed, the statement said.
“The illegal actions of the agitators could have resulted in bodily harm. Officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to conduct arrests,” it added.
Video of the clashes show police appearing to try to lock a gate as fireworks explode near them. Other videos show heavy construction equipment on fire.
The charges are being filed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the police said.
Only two of those charged are from Georgia. The rest come from 14 other US states. The group also includes one citizen of France and one of Canada, according to the information shared by the police.
Opponents say the site is a vital green space for the city and describe it as the “lungs of Atlanta”.
“We call on all people of good conscience to stand in solidarity with the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Weelaunee Forest,” a statement on the Defend The Atlanta Forest website said.
More protest events are planned for the days to come. Atlanta police say they have prepared a “multi-layered strategy that includes reaction and arrest”.
“We will not rest until those who use violence and intimidation for an extremist end are brought to full justice,” Governor Brian Kemp said in a statement on Monday.
In January there was a protest at the site after police killed a 26-year-old activist during a raid to clear the site. Demonstrators set fire to a police car and smashed windows.
Police say the activist fired first and injured a state trooper. Those opposing construction at the site have called for an independent investigation.
The 85-acre site (34 hectares) for the planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is designed to offer spaces for officers to practise shootouts and high-speed pursuits and for firefighters to practise battling blazes.