Are we about to see nationwide rioting again?
Updated: Jan 20
So, here we go again.
Apparently, protesters in Atlanta are calling out for violence against police and law enforcement entities following a police-involved shooting on Wednesday that left a state trooper wounded and one man dead. The group behind the protests is called Atlanta Forest who is calling for a “Night of Rage” on Friday (January 20, 2022) in order to bring "reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies".
According to the group’s Twitter account, actors are to "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".
Hopefully Twitter is in the process of stepping in at the moment as this statement alone is in violation of Twitter’s rules.
As I read through the Twitter feed, the Defenders of the Forest Facebook page and their website, it appears that there is a growing group of protesters upset about where the City of Atlanta is building their new Public Safety Training Center.
Apparently, the City of Atlanta has chosen a site to build the new center which has been previously unused area except that APD has used the area as a shooting range.
Here is what the Defender’s website has to say about the proposed building on the 300 acre site: “We (Atlanta) have the highest percentage of tree canopy of any major metropolitan area in America. Our canopy is the main factor in ensuring Atlanta’s resiliency in the face of climate change. The forest in Southeast Atlanta is home to wetlands that filter rainwater and prevent flooding. It is also one of the last breeding grounds for many amphibians in the region, as well as an important migration site for wading birds.”
“The history of this particular land is deeply scarred. In the 1800s shortly after the land was stolen from Muscogee Creek peoples, it was used as a plantation. In the early 1900s, a prison farm was opened where inmates were forced to perform unpaid agricultural labor, marking the rebranding of slavery into for profit prison labor. The Atlanta Police Department currently uses this hallowed ground as a firing range.”
The Atlanta Police Department seeks to turn 85 acres of the 300 acres of forest into a tactical training compound featuring a mock city.
Expecting to open the first phase of the project in late 2023, here is a description of the new center from the Atlanta Police Foundation
The new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center will reimagine law enforcement training and Police/Fire Rescue community engagement. The PSTC will:
Improve morale, retention, recruitment and training for APD and AFR professionals and ensure that Atlanta attracts and motivates those most highly committed to careers in law enforcement
Set a national standard for community engagement, neighborhood sensitivity and devotion to the civil rights of all citizens by law enforcement
Embrace police reform and cultural sensitivity through an extensive training and educational partnership with the National Center for Civil & Human Rights
Facilitate collaboration and joint training between Atlanta’s police, fire/ rescue agencies and their local, state and federal partner agencies
Welcome the community to its public spaces The Public Safety Training Center will afford APD and AFR, the South’s largest law enforcement agencies, a state-of-the-art training facility, reduced insurance and operational training costs, and the essential training flexibility required of best-in class urban police departments.
Despite the very public statement regarding the use of the new facility to include welcoming the community to its public spaces, embracing police reform and cultural sensitivity and human rights education, the Defenders posted "The police will kill you if given the chance. Now is the time for bravery. Take care of each other. Be dangerous together."
That post has since been removed and threats similar are now appearing on the group’s Facebook account in the comments section.
So why the sudden call for violence?
On Wednesday morning of this week, a Georgia State Trooper was shot in the abdomen while clearing an encampment on the construction site.
The sweep was conducted as "an operation to identify people who are trespassing and committing other crimes on the property," which has been a continual issue since the project began according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
As the trooper approached a man inside of a tent, the man was given verbal commands to which he did not listen to or comply with but rather shot the officer. Other officers returned fire leaving the man dead on the scene and the trooper fighting for his life in a nearby hospital. The man had not replied to officers nor gave them any warning of his actions before shooting the officer.
A joint task force had been formed to combat ongoing criminal activity at the APD site and included the GBI, APD, The Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Georgia State Patrol, the FBI, Dekalb County Police Department, the Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
Atlanta Forest, despite the transparent reports and evidence, immediately held a vigil Wednesday evening Defend the Atlanta Forest held a vigil Wednesday evening at the Little Five Points Square, a popular shopping area, to "memorialize the forest defender" that was "murdered by the police according to their social media.
Not surprisingly, there is no mention in the group’s social media posts regarding the explosive devices, gasoline and road flares found in the area after clearing the protesters nor was there any mention of the attack perpetuated by the Defenders on firefighters and police officers with rocks and weapons as the scene was cleared.
I found it incredibly interesting that the previous arrests made on this site included protestors from Nebraska, Maine, California, Wisconsin and of course, one from Georgia (Macon).
As of the time I write this, I have located no less than one dozen online posts advertising reactionary protests scheduled for Friday in the same number of cities around the country.
Are we about to see another wave of protests across the country? I certainly hope not but at this point it seems somewhat inevitable as these groups refuse to see facts and are swayed by Twitter feeds and a few angry activists looking for a reason to start a fight and commandeer national news space.
The death of George Floyd triggered a wave of civil unrest in the United States beginning on May 25, 2020. The focus of these riots and protests was on systemic racism and police violence. It is not a stretch to see how this situation in Atlanta could become our next national issue jeopardizing business, homes, civilians and law enforcement.
It appears, from what is being posted and what I am finding regarding organizing of protests in other cities that we could be looking at the very same mentality that I saw in Ferguson. Once it is perceived that there has been some sort of civil rights violation, the wheel comes off the wagon. I believe we are seeing similiar allegations here. In Ferguson, as the Grand Jury was deliberating over whether to charge Darren Wilson with murder for shooting Michael Brown, cops were already being shot in and around Ferguson, death threats multiplied and the violence began to appear around the country. Even after the Grand Jury found insufficient grounds to indict Officer Wilson, the media continued to beat the dead horse driving the preconceptions as standing fact.
It will not be shocking to see the rhetoric of defunding the police raise its head again along with the need for monies to be re-allocated to programs that benefit communities of color (the protestor seems to be of hispanic decent). I expect that we will see the same senseless demonstrations that followed Floyd’s death including rioting, looting, violence and destruction. I will also not be surprised at all to see these Defenders of the Forest have their efforts hijacked by larger groups looking to cash in on a new reason to hit the streets.
At the time I posted this, 12:05, January 19, 2023,the Defend the Atlanta Forest Twitter feed is still up and now advertising action to take place in areas like Savannah, New York City, Charlotte, Chicago, Atlanta and more.
The trooper, from what I have been able to gather, is still hospitalized but no longer in ICU following emergency surgery on Wednesday. We wish him a speedy recovery and pray for him and his family as well as for peace to reign over a weekend that could be shaping up to be otherwise.