X

Kemp extends order deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to Atlanta

July 8, 2020 Atlanta: Specialist, O’Donnell was posted guard in front of the Georgia State Capitol building on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
July 8, 2020 Atlanta: Specialist, O’Donnell was posted guard in front of the Georgia State Capitol building on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Gov. Brian Kemp extended an order Monday that deployed 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops to protect state buildings in Atlanta, the latest in a series of escalating tensions with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over safety and public health.

Kemp called out the troops earlier this month despite opposition from Bottoms, who has urged the governor to focus state resources on responding to soaring numbers of coronavirus cases in Georgia. The extension keeps them in place through July 27.

The governor, a Republican, signed the first order July 6 after a burst of violence across the city that included the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl and the ransacking of the headquarters of the Georgia State Patrol in southeast Atlanta.

The troops were dispatched to three state government sites in the city: the state Capitol, the Governor's Mansion in Buckhead and the Department of Public Safety building, which had been vandalized by a group of at least 60 people.

At the time, the governor said he had little other choice but to call in reinforcements, and his order cast the step as “necessary and appropriate to protect public peace and provide for the safety and welfare of Georgia’s citizens, visitors and property.”

He said on Monday that the troops will “protect state property to allow state police to patrol our streets, especially in the city of Atlanta.”

Bottoms backed Kemp’s decision in late May to deploy the National Guard after largely peaceful protests for racial justice turned violent. She told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, that she staunchly opposed redeploying troops last week to protect state buildings.

“It’s a terrible visual to have military tanks on our streets. It has the potential to further inflame this already very tense situation. I personally think it’s overkill,” she said in a recent interview. “But don’t blame that on Atlanta. Call it what it is — you want to protect your buildings.”

The governor extended the order hours before his authorization was set to expire, and after days of little unrest in Atlanta’s streets.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, the Georgia National Guard's adjutant general, reported a "peaceful" atmosphere last week, and state officials say no arrests have been made.

Kemp's decision also came on the same day Bottoms appeared on a virtual conference call with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who offered to send a team of coronavirus experts to Georgia to help with testing and contact tracing.

The governor and the mayor of Georgia's capital city have never been close personal allies, and Kemp's move last week to deploy the troops triggered escalating tension between them.

They've since clashed over Bottoms' signing of a mask mandate over the governor's objections and her announcement of new economic limits in the city to contain the coronavirus that Kemp says are unenforceable.

To see the order, read here.