Atlanta Police Arrest Suspect in Arson Connected to 'Cop City' Protests

AP Photo/Alex Slitz, File

Last summer the organizers behind the efforts to block the construction of a police training center outside Atlanta seemed to have reached the end of their rope. The so-called "forest defenders" had been cleared out of the forest and their efforts to oppose the construction legally had hit a wall after a day long protest at Atlanta City Hall failed to change any votes and the project moved forward.

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As I pointed out at the time, the protesters weren't shy about what they planned to do next. They were chanting "If you build it, we will burn it," outside City Hall.

So it wasn't much of a shock when the same organizers held a "Week of Action" about a month later that there was an arson attacked aimed at Atlanta police.

Atlanta police say “incendiary devices” were found after an overnight fire that burned several motorcycles at the department’s training academy early Saturday morning.

Emergency crews responded to a fire on a parking deck at the Atlanta Police Training Academy around 2 a.m. ET and found several motorcycles on fire, Atlanta Police Department Sgt. John Chafee told CNN.

“Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and after doing so they discovered incendiary devices,” Chafee said in an email.

Authorities quickly pronounced this arson and said they were investigating. The FBI also got involved. Yesterday the Atlanta PD announced they had made an arrest in the case. His name is John Robert Mazurek and he has been charged with first degree arson.

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The fire destroyed eight Atlanta Police Department motorcycles at the city’s old training academy on Southside Industrial Parkway.

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said the arrest occurred after a task force comprised of state and local police and fire department officials executed search warrants for “three locations connected to acts of vandalism and arson that have occurred over the last three months.” Two of the locations are in Atlanta and one is in unincorporated DeKalb County.

As you might expect, the "Stop Cop City" protesters showed no remorse.

The organizers say police are trying to intimidate and criminalize those against the project.

"What we want is for activists, organizers, protesters and movement comrades to stop being harassed for no apparent reason other than saying 'Stop Cop City,'" Keana Jones, activist pastor in residence at Park Avenue Baptist Church, said.

"You think we give a damn about some equipment?! Not at all... I'm not going to condemn somebody for doing righteously what they need to do when our city has silenced every quote-unquote, proper democratic process!" Mary Hooks said.

The city has not in fact silenced every democratic process. The City Hall vote mentioned above went on for 16 hours to allow opponents of the project time to speak but in the end their comments (and threats) didn't make a difference in the vote. After that failure the same activists tried to gather signatures to get the issue on the ballot. But that effort is also in doubt, both because the issue itself may not be one that a ballot measure can decide (a court is looking at that) but also because the activists probably didn't gather enough signatures. The Associated Press looked at a random sample in December.

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The reporting partners analyzed a sample of 1,000 entries, taking a random sample of pages proportionally from each of 16 boxes, and then choosing a random entry on each page. Comparing names and addresses to voter rolls, the partners matched 47.5% of names to eligible Atlanta voters.

In order to have enough signatures, the group would need 53.7% of the total to be valid. So it looks like the effort is going to fall short. And the really bad news for the "forest defenders" whose motto has been "cop city will never be built" is that cop city is already about 70% complete and will be open later this year.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the training center is about 70% done. While efforts to stop the construction of the facility are ongoing through the legal system, Dickens said the facility will be operational by the end of the year.

I still think it's very likely one or more people associated with this group will try to make good on their promise of "If you build it we will burn it." Police may have captured one arsonist but there are almost certainly more. I hope police are guarding the construction site very carefully.


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Jazz Shaw 8:30 AM | February 25, 2024
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