The Republican governor had pledged to take action against a “recent trend of lawlessness” in Georgia’s capital city.
ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in the Peach State on Monday afternoon, allowing for the activation of up to 1,000 National Guard troops to Atlanta following a violent weekend that left 31 people wounded from multiple shootings and five dead, including an 8-year-old girl.
In an executive order issued Monday, Kemp said the Georgia National Guard will be deployed as needed to protect state property, including the governor’s mansion and the Georgia Department of Public Safety, which was vandalized by protesters early Sunday morning.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” the governor said. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”
The order comes after Kemp, a Republican, threatened Sunday to “take action” against the “recent trend of lawlessness” in Atlanta if local leaders failed to do so.
During a news conference Sunday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, demanded an end to the violence.
“There are peaceful demonstrators across this city and across this country, and I applaud them and I thank them for being peaceful and for honoring the lives of so many people who have been killed in America because of injustice. That’s an important movement that’s happening,” Bottoms said. “But this random wild, wild West, shoot-’em-up because you can, has got to stop. It has to stop.”
Kemp previously deployed Georgia National Guard troops to Atlanta on May 29 to restore order and impose curfews following an outburst of looting and violence during demonstrations against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
The move initially seemed effective, but the brief period of calm ended when protests broke out in response to the June 12 police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a black man, by a white police officer.
Brooks was shot and killed during an attempted arrest in a Wendy’s parking lot, setting off a chain of events that culminated with the resignation of the city’s police chief.
The Wendy’s restaurant where the shooting took place was burned down by protesters and turned into a makeshift memorial site.
One of the victims of the violence in Atlanta this weekend, 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, was shot and killed less than a half mile away from the Wendy’s while riding in a car with her mother.
A 53-year-old man was also shot and killed in the area.
Georgia Democrats immediately criticized Kemp’s decision, calling Monday’s executive order “irresponsible.”
“It is absolutely disgusting that after months of inaction on the plagues of coronavirus and police brutality currently killing black Georgians, Brian Kemp is now using his executive power to protect buildings instead of the people he is supposed to serve,” Georgia Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikema Williams said in a statement.
She added, “For months, we have begged the governor to take serious steps to stop Covid-19 from decimating our communities, but he refuses. His choice to deploy National Guard troops for today’s selfish purpose is outrageous and will endanger lives.”
The state of emergency will expire at midnight on July 13 unless renewed by Kemp.