Georgia leaders are ready for action after protests at a public safety police training facility in Atlanta last week erupted in violence and vandalism, including thrown Molotov cocktails, a squad car set on fire, a 26-year-old protester killed and shot a policeman.

Georgia Republican Attorney General Chris Carr announced Monday that he is preparing a case to bring charges of domestic terrorism and several other crimes against protesters who escalated a peaceful march into violence. Carr, along with Gov. Brian Kemp and other lawmakers, said protesters who caused property damage in downtown Atlanta face serious criminal offenses that could serve as a warning to others who might escalate peaceful demonstrations into violations of the law.

Protesters clashed with police in downtown Atlanta Saturday night, destroying a police car and smashing windows at bank branches and an office tower on Peachtree Street. What police say represents “Stop Cop City’s” worst opposition to the new training facility, as tensions rose after the scene turned deadly on Wednesday when a Georgia State Trooper was shot dead and 26-year-old protester Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was shot and killed by soldiers during an operation to clear campers from Intrenchment Creek Park in Atlanta. Protesters calling themselves “Forest Defenders” have camped out in the 60-acre woods in DeKalb County for more than a year.

Carr said the financial backing behind a new training facility, which the Atlanta City Council also backed, strongly points to the need to replace a center at an old elementary school that leaked during a rainstorm.

The state’s chief prosecutor has been given powers in recent years to hear criminal cases involving domestic terrorism charges. In 2020, peaceful demonstrations in downtown Atlanta over racial and social injustices sometimes turned violent when National Guard troops were called in to defuse tensions.

“Here we have this group that has been sitting on this property illegally for over a year trying to stop the process to make sure the community and law enforcement are safe and it’s been taking long enough,” Carr said Monday during an interview on North Georgia Talk Radio WDUN’s Martha Zoller Show.

“I am confident that the facts will show that these people have engaged in DT and they will face serious punishment and a longer sentence if convicted,” Carr said.

The protesters behind “Stop Cop City” cite the destruction of the city’s disappearing forest and the desecration of Native American ancestral lands through the project. An additional objection is that the project will be built on the site of a former prison farm complex that was profitable due to the unpaid labor of incarcerated men.

A group of five Atlanta-area doctors who also serve in social justice organizations wrote a letter saying the police response and resulting narrative was all too common.

Police should stop the unwarranted use of toxic chemical irritants such as tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against protesters camped at the property, they said.

“This fits in the context of a worrying pattern and public health threat, with the US having one of the highest incarceration rates in the world; perpetuated by a judicial and legislative system that targets Black and Indigenous peoples, migrants, those living in poverty, the homeless, and environmental and social activists,” read the letter, signed by the co-directors of Georgia Human Rights Clinic included doctors Michel Khoury and Amy Zeidan.

The people arrested over the weekend and in an earlier search of controversial downtown Atlanta parkland are almost all white and in their early 20s.

Over the past two years, state lawmakers have considered legislation that would have tightened restrictions on rallies and protests and added penalties for people in crowds even if they did not participate in illegal activities. Kemp and the newly elected Lt. gov. Burt Jones both mentioned tackling violent crime as a priority for this session.

Georgia officials were quick to discover that most of the dozen or so people arrested over the past week lived out of state.

“Law enforcement has shown how quickly we take down those who try to import violence from other states, and we will continue to do so,” Kemp said.

The violence and property damage caused last week were condemned by several Georgian lawmakers on Monday.

Republican Senator John Albers said people have the right to protest but they can’t block roads or worse without paying a price.

“You have no right to occupy private property,” he said during Monday’s Senate chamber session. “You have no right to destroy squad cars or private property. You have no right to attack a citizen or a law enforcement officer.”