Georgia Governor Declares State of Emergency, Deploys National Guard after July 4 Weekend Violence

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in Atlanta, Georgia, February 24, 2016. (Letitia Stein/Reuters)

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Monday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency and activating up to 1,000 National Guard members after Atlanta was wracked with violence over Independence Day weekend.

The move follows “weeks of dramatically increased violent crime and property destruction in the City of Atlanta,” said Kemp, a Republican.

Over the July 4 weekend, Atlanta had eleven shootings with 31 victims, leaving five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.

“You shot and killed a baby, and it wasn’t one shooter — there were at least two shooters,” Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a news conference, adding that “you can’t blame” police for the high number of shootings of recent weeks.

The eight-year-old girl was shot outside a Wendy’s that was torched and became a hotspot for protests after Rayshard Brooks, a black man, was shot there by a white police officer last month.

Between May 31, the weekend after Memorial Day, until June 27, shooting incidents have doubled from 46 last year to 93 this year for that period, according to police data. Murders more than doubled from six last year to 14 this year for that period.

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

The National Guard troops will “provide support” at state buildings, including the Georgia State Capitol, Georgia Department of Public Safety Headquarters, and Governor’s Mansion, the governor’s statement said. The additional support is aimed at freeing up state law enforcement to increase patrols on roads and in communities, particularly in Atlanta.

At the Wendy’s location, “city officials have failed to quell ongoing violence with armed individuals threatening citizens, shooting at passersby, blocking streets, destroying local businesses, and defying orders to disperse,” the governor’s order said.

The governor also said that on Sunday, people “armed with rocks, spray paint, and fireworks” vandalized the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters.

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