Atlanta, GA – Rioters protesting the officer-involved shooting death of a suspect who shot a Georgia trooper last week set a police car on fire and busted out the windows of local businesses during a violent demonstration in Atlanta on Saturday night.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said the crowd gathered at Underground Atlanta on Jan. 21 dressed in black and marched down Peachtree Street demanding justice for 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, WAGA reported.
Teran, who went by the name of “Tortuguita,” died in a shootout with police on Jan. 18 at an encampment erected in a wooded area at the site of a future police and fire training center.
Demonstrators have been protesting the training center, which they’ve dubbed “Cop City,” for months.
Protesters marched through the downtown Atlanta area on Saturday night for about an hour before the chaos erupted, WAGA reported.
“When that group arrived at the intersection of Ellis Street and Peachtree Street, a group inside that marching crowd decided to start committing illegal acts including breaking windows and attacking police cruisers that were in the area,” Chief Schierbaum said.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said some of the rioters were carrying explosives, WAGA reported.
A police vehicle was set ablaze during the melee and at least three businesses were damaged before police quelled the violent uprising, according to the police chief.
BREAKING: #COPCITY protesters throw rocks at Atlanta Police Foundation building in downtown Atlanta. They also set off fireworks and spray painted the building. #ATL #BREAKING #NOW @FOX5Atlanta pic.twitter.com/BwF5CzNgIm
— Billy Heath III (@BillyHeathFOX5) January 21, 2023
No citizens or law enforcement officers were injured, ABC News reported.
Dickens noted that many of the rioters came to Atlanta from other areas.
“Many of them don’t even live in Atlanta or in the state of Georgia, and they don’t represent the voices of Atlanta,” the mayor said, according to ABC News.
Atlanta Riot Explained 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/B2w2IDF5pa
— E (@ElijahSchaffer) January 22, 2023
Six suspects were arrested for domestic terrorism and other charges in the wake of the violence, FOX News reported.
They have been identified as 37-year-old Emily Murphy, 22-year-old Francis Carroll, 20-year-old Graham Evatt, 23-year-old Ivan Ferguson, 22-year-old Madeleine Feola, and 24-year-old Nadja Geier.
Names & booking photos for those arrested 1/21/23. Chargeshttps://t.co/tclQgvipQe
•Nadja Geier 24,Nashville, TN
•Madeleine Feola 22, Spokane, WA
•Ivan Ferguson 23, Nevada
•Graham Evatt 20, Decatur, GA
•Francis Carrol 22, Kennebunkport, ME
•Emily Murphy 37, Grosse Isle, MI pic.twitter.com/rXOHf2Oh1W
— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) January 22, 2023
They have all been charged with felony first-degree arson, second-degree criminal damage, interference with government property, and domestic terrorism, FOX News reported.
The six suspects also face misdemeanor charges of willful obstruction of a law enforcement officer, unlawful assembly, riot, and pedestrian in a roadway.
Far-left extremists arrested at the violent attack in downtown #Atlanta all tried pulling a George Floyd by screaming, "I can't breathe." #Antifa & other far-left extremists gathered for a revenge riot over the death of their gunman at the autonomous zone. pic.twitter.com/rBljc4Inak
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) January 22, 2023
It was at least the second such arrest for Carroll, who was arrested at the encampment site in December after rioters attacked police with rocks and bottles.
The Maine resident was charged with domestic terrorism as a result of that incident, as well as aggravated assault, felony obstruction, criminal trespass, interference with government property, and possession of tools for the commission of a crime, WXIA reported.
In addition to smashing up businesses, cars & the Atlanta Police Foundation, far-left extremists set an @Atlanta_Police vehicle on fire. The riot was organized as revenge for their gunman dying in a shootout at the terrorist autonomous zone south of city. pic.twitter.com/NGcqZmLlZ1
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) January 22, 2023
Despite reports that the rioters set a patrol car on fire, smashed the windows out of businesses, and attacked police with fireworks during the mayhem in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night, some news outlets continued to refer to the uprising as a peaceful demonstration.
Freelance journalist David Peisner told CNN that referring to the demonstration as “violent” is unfair – even as images of a burning police vehicle were shown in the frame beside him during the segment.
CNN’s guest suggests we shouldn’t use the word “violent” to describe the Antifa riots in Atlanta tonight.
Antifa is currently destroying buildings and setting police cars on fire. pic.twitter.com/2PeCOFqXEk
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) January 22, 2023
“You keep using these words ‘violent, violent, violent, violent,’ um, and, it gives the impression…the only acts of violence against people that I saw were actually police tackling protesters,” Peisner stammered.
ABC News showed footage of a police vehicle engulfed in flames in a tweet, claiming that “six people were arrested after a peaceful protest…”
Six people were arrested after a peaceful protest over a proposed police training ground turned violent in Atlanta, police said. https://t.co/7LDbaelFxK pic.twitter.com/gXpRjNq5im
— ABC News (@ABC) January 22, 2023
Dickens pushed back strongly against those alleging the anti-police riot that took place on Saturday night was nonviolent, FOX News reported.
He noted the suspects were armed with explosives, damaged businesses, and burned a patrol vehicle to the ground.
The chaos erupted just days after a multiagency law enforcement task force clashed with rioters who have been occupying the site of the future police and fire training center for the past year.
ANTIFA is using the hashtag #stopcopcity to organize the Atlanta riot on TikTok pic.twitter.com/uvGkINOCNr
— Swig 🇺🇸 (@OldRowSwig) January 22, 2023
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said law enforcement officers were clearing the encampment on Jan. 18 as part of an “operation to identify people who are trespassing and committing other crimes on the property,” when they encountered a man inside one of the tents, FOX News reported.
“Officers gave verbal commands to the man who did not comply and shot a Georgia State Patrol Trooper,” according to the GBI. “Other law enforcement officers returned fire, hitting the man.”
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
(1/3) We are releasing a photo of the handgun that was in Manuel Esteban Paez Teran’s possession when a Georgia State Patrol trooper was shot on January 18 at the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. pic.twitter.com/ER1mGfgBkL
— GA Bureau of Investigation (@GBI_GA) January 21, 2023
Investigators said they recovered the suspect’s handgun at the scene, as well as multiple shell casings, FOX News reported.
The injured trooper was evacuated from the area and transported to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to his abdomen.
He underwent emergency surgery and has since been stabilized, the GBI said.
The GBI said ballistic investigators matched the bullet that wounded the trooper to the gun Teran used during the shootout, WAGA reported.
Investigators said they located and removed approximately 25 campsites during the Jan. 18 sweep.
“Additionally, mortar style fireworks, multiple edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks, and a blow torch were recovered,” the GBI noted.
Police arrested seven rioters in connection with the Jan. 18 incident.
The GBI identified them as 35-year-old Sarahdo Wasilewski, 31-year-old Teresa Shen, 31-year-old Christopher Reynolds, 25-year-old Timothy Murphy, 30-year-old Matthew Ernest Macar, 29-year-old Spencer Bernard Liberto, and 20-year-old Geoffrey Parsons.
None of the five suspects resides in Georgia.
Liberto, Macar, and Wasilewski are from Pennsylvania, Parsons is from Maryland, Murphy is from Maine, Shen is from New York, and Reynolds is from Ohio, according to the GBI.
They have all been charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass.
The GBI said additional charges are expected.
GBI Director Michael Register said the encampment has been an ongoing problem and that the rioters are “endangering the community and the citizens around this area,” FOX News reported.
Rioters called for violence against police in the wake of the shooting, with several groups rallying followers on social media, according to the news outlet.
A post on the Scenes from the Atlanta Forest Twitter page urged people to participate in a “Night of Rage” on Jan. 20, FOX News reported.
The post encouraged followers to carry out “reciprocal violence” on “police and their allies,” according to the news outlet.
“Consider this a call for reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies,” the post read. “On Friday, January 20th, wherever you are, you are invited to participate in a night of rage in order to honor the memory of our fallen comrade.”
The group made a similar post on its website on Jan. 18.
“The worst has come to pass. An unnamed forest defender has been shot and killed in Weelaunee,” the call to action read. “Consider this a call for reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies. On Friday, January 20th, wherever you are, you are invited to participate in a night of rage in order to honor the memory of our fallen comrade. Love and rage Defend the Atlanta Forest.”
“DEFEND THE ATLANTA FOREST NIGHT OF RAGE FRIDAY JANUARY 20TH MAKE THEM PAY,” the group reiterated.
The group has claimed it is affiliated with the Defend the Atlanta Forest group, which has played a major role in the encampment and the ongoing problems there, FOX News reported.
“Our officers are on high alert, and we will continue our work to keep our streets safe for our residents, businesses, and visitors alike,” police said in a statement to WSB. “We remain in close contact with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners and are grateful for their commitment to our shared goal of creating the safest communities possible for our city.”
A joint task force comprised of the GBI, Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Atlanta Police Department, Georgia State Patrol, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, DeKalb County Police Department, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Department of Natural Resources, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working for months to combat the occupation of the site and the ongoing illegal activities occurring there, according to the news outlet.
Eight rioters were arrested at the property in May of 2022 after throwing a Molotov cocktail at officers while they were trying to remove them, CNN reported.
Vandals destroyed surveillance cameras in the area a couple months later, then someone fired shots on the technician who showed up to repair them, according to WAGA.
In August of 2022, law enforcement officers were seen standing guard while Georgia Power repaired a damaged transformer at the property.
Police and construction crews had gotten into a confrontation with rioters there earlier in the week, according to WAGA.
Construction equipment at the site went up in flames the following month.
When the task force went to the property on Dec. 13, 2022, to take down some of the barricades the group had set up to block entrances to the site, rioters confronted them and allegedly “threw rocks at police cars and attacked EMTs outside the neighboring fire stations with rocks and bottles,” according to the GBI.
“Task force members used various tactics to arrest individuals who were occupying makeshift treehouses,” the agency said, according to CNN.
The GBI said the task force located “explosive devices, gasoline, and road flairs” while clearing the area, WXIA reported.
The rioters, who have touted themselves as forest defenders, established the encampment to protest the future training facility they refer to as “Cop City,” WXIA reported.
They have had the semi-permanent encampments at the site for approximately one year.
Police ultimately arrested five rioters during the December confrontation, all of whom are now facing domestic terrorism and other charges.
They have been identified as 20-year-old Leonardo Vioselle, 25-year-old Serena Hertel, 25-year-old Nicholas Olson, 22-year-old Arieon Robinson, and Carroll
Investigators said that at least four of the suspects are from out-of-state.
The GBI said there had been multiple recent clashes between the group and police or other public service personnel at the site prior to the arrests made in December.
“[The Atlanta Police Department] and other agencies had made several arrests over the past few months for the ongoing criminal activity at the site location,” the GBI said, according to WXIA. “Some of the criminal activities include carjacking, various crimes against persons, destruction of property, arson, and attacks against public safety officials. Law enforcement continues to address the criminal acts committed by the individuals that continue to occupy the area of the proposed training site.”
The Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) said it plans to build the $90 million, state-of-the-art complex on 85 acres of the site, and that the remaining 180 acres will remain undeveloped, WXIA reported.
The facility will include a burn building, a mock city, and a shooting range, according to CNN.
The demonstrators argued that the project would destroy one of the largest forested areas of the city, and that the land is historically significant to the Muscogee Creek Native Americans who once lived in the area.
The site was also the location of the Old Prison Farm, where unpaid inmates worked the farmland as a “dignified” means of imprisonment, WXIA reported.