The Jolt: A month of violence in Atlanta gives Republicans a target

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, right, speaks during a press conference at Atlanta police headquarters about the Saturday night shooting death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner. J. SCOTT TRUBEY/SCOTTl.TRUBEY@AJC.COM
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, right, speaks during a press conference at Atlanta police headquarters about the Saturday night shooting death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner. J. SCOTT TRUBEY/SCOTTl.TRUBEY@AJC.COM

Credit: J. Scott Trubey

Credit: J. Scott Trubey

Just after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms pleaded Sunday for an end to the violence in the city's streets, police reported another fatal shooting a short hop from the charred Wendy's where an 8-year-old was killed.

The death punctuated a weekend of havoc that included shootings at a party on Edgewood Avenue that left 14 people wounded and a coordinated attack early Sunday on the state Department of Public Safety by a group of at least 60 people armed with rocks, pepper spray and fireworks.

The spate of violence isn't a single weekend phenomenon. Our AJC colleague Joshua Sharpe reports that 93 people were shot in Atlanta during the four weeks between May 31 -- roughly when the George Floyd protests began -- to June 27, the latest period for which complete data is available. That's up from 46 in the same period last year.

And 14 people died of homicide in that current span, compared to six during the same time frame in 2019.

“Officers are afraid to do their job,” Jason Segura, an Atlanta officer who leads the local union, told Sharpe.

Atlanta police morale has been shaky since Chief Erika Shields was forced to resign, and sick-outs have wracked the department. Moreover, the surge in gunplay comes at a tricky time for Bottoms, considered a top-tier potential running-mate for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Republicans are seeing an opening.

The unrest triggered a stern warning from Gov. Brian Kemp, who called the lawlessness “outrageous and unacceptable” and suggested he could call in state law enforcement authorities — and perhaps the Georgia National Guard — to help keep the peace.

"While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace & maintaining order, we won't hesitate to take action without them," he said in a Tweet on Sunday.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, his hand-picked appointment to that chamber, took the criticism a step further in a series of Tweets this morning. She linked the violence to a velvet-glove approach by city leaders (notably, she didn't specify Bottoms) and linked it to the "defund police" movement.

“I’m also furious. I’m furious that elected officials with a radical agenda have decided to appease violent criminals instead of protecting the public. And I’m furious that these ‘leaders’ refuse to support law enforcement at a time when they need it most,” Loeffler wrote in a tweet. More:

".@ga_dps was vandalized & an 8 year old was murdered on Saturday — a day meant to celebrate what makes America great. Others were injured & last night a 53 year old was murdered too. The defund police movement — and those who support & appease it — deserve blame."

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And then we had this over the weekend. From our AJC colleague Rosalind Bentley:

Scores of African Americans, many armed with military-style assault weapons and other firearms, marched to Stone Mountain Memorial Park on the Fourth of July in what an organizer said was a demonstration of their Second Amendment rights.

Authorities said the event was peaceful. However, the participants, masked, clad head to toe in black, bearing weapons and marching from downtown Stone Mountain to the park, prompted a stir on social media.

No arrests were made. Thanks to Georgia's open carry law, armed white supremacist “militias” have conducted similar displays over the past few years. but this Fourth of July show of force was far larger than anything the park has seen before.

Right-wing advocates of the Second Amendment were notably alarmed. 

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Here's an eye-opener: We've confirmed that Blake Evans, the Fulton County elections chief, has joined the staff of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. There are two ways you can look at this: 1) Raffensperger's complaints about the way Fulton County handled the June 9 primaries were exaggerated, or 2) the secretary of state now has someone on hand who understands the county's dysfunction.

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An interesting tidbit brought to you by Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams: Democrats outdid Republicans among Georgians who did not vote in 2018 but cast ballots in the June primary.

Some 48,719 more Democrats than Republicans fit in that category. That’s almost equal to the roughly 55,000-vote gap that separated Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp in 2018.

On a similar note, the Washington-based Voter Participation Center and the Center for Voter Information sent word this morning that they are mailing 894,701 voter registration applications to non-voters in Georgia.

More than 2.4 million people eligible to vote in Georgia are not yet registered, according to a 2018 U.S. Census study, the groups say. Nearly three-quarters are young people, people of color and unmarried women.

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Recent reports out of Washington say the Trump administration has identified a scapegoat to blame for its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic -- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Word is getting around. Carlos Del Rio is a nationally recognized diseased specialist who is also executive associate Dean for Emory at Grady. As the Fourth of July weekend broke, he Tweeted out a plea to Tom Frieden, The former head of the CDC:

Tom, where is @CDCgov? Why are they not out there shouting "fire"? I see a lot of passivity among our public [health] leaders nationally and locally. Have we given up?

Frieden replied the next morning:

They are still there, still doing great work, just not being allowed to talk about it, not being allowed to guide policy, not being allowed to develop, standardize, and post information that would give, by state and county, the status of the epidemic and of our control measures.

It was an exchange that registered when Margaret Brennan included this in her Sunday opening on CBS' "Face the Nation": 

We think it's important for our viewers to hear from Doctor Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control. But we have not been able to get our requests for Doctor Fauci approved by the Trump administration in the last three months. And the CDC not at all. We will continue our efforts.

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Already posted: A week after Savannah became the first Georgia city to mandate the use of face masks to contain the spread of the coronavirus, officials in Gov. Brian Kemp's hometown of Athens-Clarke County are poised to consider a similar requirement.

The county commission is set to vote Tuesday on an ordinance requiring face coverings, a step that could come into conflict with a Kemp order that "strongly encourages" but does not mandate masks. It also bans local governments from enacting stricter or more lenient measures to fight the disease.

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Some of former Georgia legislator Mark Burkhalter's allies have come to his defense as he faces scrutiny over a racist campaign mailer in a 1994 Fulton County commission race that could scuttle his chance at being U.S. ambassador to Norway.

Terry Coleman, a Democrat who was briefly the state House speaker, told InsiderAdvantage that he's "never seen anything from him but concern and compassion for all our fellow Georgians" from Burkhalter.

The outlet also reported that Fulton County Commission chair Robb Pitts, a Black Democrat, wrote a letter in support of the Alpharetta Republican.

***

You can count Jamie Dupree, our WSB radio colleague, as a skeptic when it comes to Kanye West's weekend declaration as a candidate for U.S. president:

Kanye is already too late to make the ballot in Indiana, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas and New York. He has 10 days to get 132,781 signatures to make the ballot in Florida. 10 days to get 10,000 in South Carolina. 11 days to get 12,000 in Michigan. 30 days to get almost 200,000 signatures in California. 30 days to get 5,000 in Ohio.

I can't imagine taking a clipboard from a stranger and signing my name to anything right now....

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