In Atlanta in 2021, a police training facility was approved for development in a Southeast Atlanta forested area near the Old Atlanta Prison Farm. Opposition to the training facility united a variety of left wing groups including militant anti-fascists, anti-police activists, and environmental activists. The training facility was quickly nicknamed cop city by these groups due to it including a mock city for training officers under real world conditions. These groups formed into Stop Cop City and have led the effort against the training facility.
Since then a variety of tactics have been used in opposition to the training facility. While some have used tactics that have remained peaceful and legal, many have devolved into intimidation, arson, vandalism, and violence. One of the common tactics in 2022 was to physically occupy the forest by camping or the use of tree-sits.
The occupation of the forest has driven numerous acts of criminality, including throwing molotov cocktails at police, vandalizing construction equipment, holding people at gunpoint, and arson of vehicles. Law enforcement started sweeping the forest to remove those trespassing in response. These sweeps mostly consisted of removing people from tree-sits, removing camping equipment, and locating tools that could be used for arson and other attacks.
During a January 18th 2023 police sweep a George State Trooper was shot in the leg by Manuel 'Tortuguita' Teran. Georgia State Troopers returned fire, killing Teran. The trooper survived the shooting. Within hours of the shooting, posts were up on extremist outlets connected with StopCopCity calling for retaliation.
The call for retaliation made up basic facts about the shooting, stating that he was unarmed, when in fact he had a M&P shield that was legally purchased under his name. Additionally ballistic forensics confirmed that the bullet recovered from the trooper’s leg matched Teran's firearm. Many left wing outlets egged this on by referring to Teran as 'peaceful protestor'; this was an obvious lie and in a documentary released later a fellow extremist who knew and occupied the forest with him noted him saying "he would not be taken alive" and would have celebrated the violence towards police that occurred.
On Saturday the 21st, three days after the shooting a black bloc riot was organized in downtown Atlanta. Block bloc is a tactic in which participants wear the same all black outfit to not be identified. This enables violence and vandalism, while reducing the possibility of criminal charges later. Activists gathered at Peachtree Fountains Plaza in Downtown Atlanta. A photographer from the William McKinley Institute captured a large number of images of the assembly area. In the images you can see a mix of left wing groups. At the staging area people from communist group Party for Socialism and Liberty (PSL), extremist legal support group National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and self proclaimed 'street medics' can all be seen. Among the groups there was a large contingent of those in black bloc, these people were seen before hand distributing bags of rocks, lasers to point at police, and other riot equipment.
Interesting pictures released by The William McKinley Institute of #Antifa at the staging area for the riot earlier tonight.— AntifaWatch (@AntifaWatch2) January 22, 2023
Shows the division of groups PSL/Medics/NLG/Black Bloc/etc, as well as clear planning from those in black blochttps://t.co/iNRnHbEmZW pic.twitter.com/AEsFd9XbHj
The march started, making its way towards the Atlanta Police Foundation. While many reporters and propagandists later described the event as a largely peaceful protest it took only 16 minutes and 41 seconds from when the march started and left the staging area to when the vandalism and rioting started.
The riot and vandalism was first done by using the banner memorializing Manuel Teran as a blocking device for people to smash out the windows and throw fireworks into an Atlanta Police car. While this is typically never filmed internally at black bloc demonstrations with many Antifa openly advocating smashing cameras, a random black guy not in black bloc was live streaming stumbled into the middle the criminality, thankfully no one stopped him.
Footage from tonight in #Atlanta when #antifa smashed out the windows of a police car and threw explosives in it.— AntifaWatch (@AntifaWatch2) January 22, 2023
Note how they use the "vigil" banner to block view and aggressively tell the person to stop filming pic.twitter.com/gH7IbuH8nC
Following that, the crowd marched and vandalized a Wells Fargo and proceeded to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF). APF has been a driving force for the training facility and as such has been targeted by extremists, in one such case they attempted to burn down an APF supported youth center that provides crime prevention programs such as GED classes, workforce training, and mentoring. Those in black bloc smashed windows, threw fireworks and rocks at the front of the building. Shortly after an Atlanta police vehicle was set on fire. The fire destroyed the vehicle completely and was caught on camera from several angles.
Atlanta, GA: Antifa are rioting, destroying businesses and setting police cars on fire after an Antifa member was shot and killed by police earlier this week.— Anthony Cabassa (@AnthonyCabassa_) January 22, 2023
The Antifa member died after opening fire on police, and policeman returned fire. pic.twitter.com/I8f4SUW7te
Atlanta police began making arrests and breaking up the riot. As police began making arrests, panic broke out in the crowd people split up and the demonstration came to an end. At the end of the night six arrests had been made. Several arrests were caught on video
ATLANTA ARRESTS: I witnessed @Atlanta_Police make a number of arrests tonight and managed to film two #COPCITY protesters being zip tied and removed from the street. #BREAKING #ATL #PROTEST #NEWS @FOX5Atlanta #ATLANTA pic.twitter.com/RjrVrG376U— Billy Heath III (@BillyHeathFOX5) January 22, 2023
All six riot arrestees were been booked for domestic terrorism, arson, riot, criminal and damage to property. Five of the six arrested were from out of state, a very common occurrence with Stop Cop City. The six came from a variety of backgrounds, one a transgender activist, a climate activist, and a repeat offender. AntifaWatch was first to identify the repeat offender as Francis Carroll, the son of a multimillionaire from Maine who was arrested for the second time for domestic terrorism. He had previously been arrested during a forest sweep in December and bailed out.
The call for retaliation following the death of Manuel Teran started with this riot, but people on social media had already begun calling for a "week of action" that could be larger action.