Georgia Guardsmen experience ‘peaceful’ first night in Atlanta

Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday declared a state of emergency following the fatal shootings that left four dead in Atlanta, including an 8-year-old girl. Set to expire July 13, Kemp’s order empowers up to 1,000 Georgia National Guardsmen to apprehend lawbreakers. (REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)
Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday declared a state of emergency following the fatal shootings that left four dead in Atlanta, including an 8-year-old girl. Set to expire July 13, Kemp’s order empowers up to 1,000 Georgia National Guardsmen to apprehend lawbreakers. (REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Troops have made no arrests so far

Monday evening was a “peaceful” experience for the Georgia National Guardsmen who have been dispatched in response to last weekend’s surge of violence in Atlanta and the ransacking of the Georgia State Patrol’s headquarters, according to their commander. So far, they have not made any arrests and no Guardsmen have been injured.

Riding in Humvees, the troops — who are armed — will be out on duty again Tuesday evening in keeping with the emergency declaration Gov. Brian Kemp issued following the shootings that left five dead in Atlanta, including an 8-year-old girl. Set to expire July 13, Kemp’s order empowers the Guardsmen to apprehend lawbreakers.

Related: Kemp to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops after violent weekend

On Monday evening, the Guardsmen stood watch at the state Capitol in downtown Atlanta, the Governor’s Mansion in Buckhead and the recently vandalized Department of Public Safety building in southeast Atlanta. The troops are seeking to free up police for other law enforcement duties, said Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden Jr., Georgia’s adjutant general. Citing security concerns, Carden declined to say precisely how many Guardsmen have been deployed, though Kemp’s order calls for up to 1,000.

“At the end of the day,” Carden said, “we are primarily staffed, trained and equipped to protect our nation – our citizens – against foreign adversaries. It is disappointing to me that once again we are having to use our personnel, equipment and training to protect Americans and their property from other Americans.”

At least 93 people were shot in Atlanta between May 31 and June 27, roughly double the number from the same span a year ago. On Sunday, a crowd of at least 60 busted out the windows of the Georgia State Patrol headquarters, and someone threw a homemade grenade into a supervisor’s office in the building, authorities said.

“The governor has made it clear,” Carden said, “that people are not just going to be able to come by and sling a Molotov cocktail into the Department of Public Safety headquarters and feel like everybody’s going to be OK with it because we are not OK with it.”

Carden added his goal is “civil order in our state and in our nation”

“Any time you turn on your street corner and one of us is standing there with a helmet on, you know that some of the social fabric is coming unwound. That is not good for any of us,” he said. “So I am hopeful and prayerful that we get past this and get past it soon.”

Kemp, a Republican, issued the emergency order after threatening late Sunday to “take action” to curb the unrest in Atlanta if Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms failed to do so.

“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” Kemp said. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”

The mayor, who confirmed Monday she tested positive for the coronavirus, said she disagreed with Kemp's decision and at “no time” requested the help.

"The irony of that is I asked Governor Kemp to allow us to mandate masks in Atlanta and he said no,” Bottoms said early Tuesday on Good Morning America. “But he has called in the National Guard without asking if we need the National Guard.”