ATLANTA, GA — With another night of vandalism in parts of Atlanta, and more protests planned for Sunday across the state, Gov. Brian Kemp has placed all of Georgia under a state of emergency. Kemp will activate 3,000 National Guard troops to try to ensure that protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis remain peaceful.
"After numerous discussions with state and local leaders, I have signed an order authorizing the activation of up to 3,000 National Guard troops statewide ahead of several planned protests on Sunday, May 31," Kemp tweeted late Saturday night. "These highly trained citizen soldiers will partner will law enforcement to preserve peace and protect Georgians in every corner of our great state."
On Friday Kemp placed Fulton County under a state of emergency so National Guard troops could help police quell violence.
"This was an opportunity for Georgians to honor the life of George Floyd, to demand justice and fair treatment under the law. This was not a time to burn police cars, destroy businesses and create fear in the hearts of nearby Georgians," Kemp said Saturday evening. "Too much has been destroyed, let's build a safer, stronger Georgia."
A curfew began at 9 p.m. Saturday for the city of Atlanta according to an executive order signed by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The curfew will be in effect until sunrise Sunday. The order comes after a protest turned into a violent riot Friday night, injuring officers, damaging patrol vehicles and more.
“What we saw overnight was not a protest, and it was not Atlanta," the mayor said Saturday. "We as a people are strongest when we use our voices to heal our city instead of using our hands to tear it down. We know our citizens are angry. We are angry and we want justice. If we are to enact change in this nation, I implore everyone to channel their anger and sorrow into something more meaningful and effective through non-violent activism."
As of 8 p.m. Atlanta Police said that 34 arrests had been made, mainly along the Marietta Street corridor. Protesters began throwing bottles, rocks, and fireworks at officers shortly before 7 p.m. near Cone and Marietta streets, police said.
One person arrested was armed, and authorities said they have reports of other protesters being armed.
Police Chief Erika Shields said at a Saturday press conference that within Friday's protesters was a group of people not from Atlanta — she said it was clear they didn't know the area as they walked — and they were bent on causing violence. She called them a terrorist organization.
"These were not Atlantans, they were lost in the protest, they didn't know how to march to the state capitol," she said.
Local activists that are known to police didn't know the troublemakers, the chief said.
Mayor Bottoms said what started as a peaceful demonstration, quickly turned into "mayhem and unnecessary destruction." The result was an "assault on businesses that are already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic."
The Atlanta Police Department said in a statement that they are monitoring protest activity throughout the city and are prepared to make arrests for any criminal acts, following destructive activities on Friday night that stretched into early Saturday.
As a result of the recent acts of violence demonstrated throughout the city, Mayor @KeishaBottoms has signed an Executive Order establishing a curfew in the entire territorial jurisdiction of the City of Atlanta. Curfew will begin at 9:00 p.m. tonight and end at sunrise 5/31/2020 pic.twitter.com/Rf1lFWHUcE
— City of Atlanta, GA (@CityofAtlanta) May 30, 2020
Avalon businesses in Alpharetta closed early Saturday as a precaution after social media messages circulated about possible violence and looting later in the night.
Alpharetta Police Chief John Robison said on Facebook that authorities are closely monitoring the discussions and, in an abundance of caution, preparing to protect the community and businesses.
"Many Avalon businesses have proactively decided to close for the night with downtown businesses likely following suit," Roison said. "This decision was made by the businesses and was not at the urging of the city or the police department."
APD officers, assisted by about 20 local, state and federal agencies, said Saturday they are prepared to monitor activity and protect vulnerable business districts and retail centers, including Atlantic Station, Camp Creek Marketplace, Greenbriar Mall, Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza, Ponce City Market, The Mall West End and others. APD is working collaboratively with those agencies to coordinate security and assure public safety throughout the city.
“I’m incredibly proud of our officers for showing professionalism and restraint, allowing protestors to voice their valid concerns,” said Chief Erika Shields. “We were patient. But we will not allow these protests to devolve into the destruction of property or placing the safety or our officers in jeopardy. We will make additional arrests and we are grateful to the assistance we are receiving from our partner agencies.”
APD, in close collaboration with its law enforcement partners, has a multi-layered strategy that includes reaction, arrest and SWAT teams to quickly move into trouble spots, stop criminal activity and take suspects into custody.
APD said that 71 arrests were made last night and 20 patrol vehicles were damaged. There were multiple fires, vandalism and other criminal acts.
They said they will not tolerate “looting and damage to property” are still working to determine the number of businesses that were looted, burglarized or damaged.
At least three Atlanta Police officers suffered minor injuries.
One was pushed down during a scuffle with protestors when a large crowd attempted to surround a police vehicle and two others were injured by flying debris.
“Officers were subjected for hours to objects thrown at them including water bottles, bullets, eggs, rocks, fireworks and knives. One officer was fired upon early Saturday morning while driving through Buckhead, but was not injured. Looting, broken windows and other vandalism occurred at several businesses along Peachtree and Lenox roads in Buckhead.”
Workers were seen early Saturday morning near Lenox Square on Peachtree Road sweeping the sidewalks, clearing it of shattered glass broken by rioters the night before. Patio chairs and potted plants were smashed through windows. Left behind trash littered the street. Several businesses, including Maggiano's Little Italy had their windows broken.
A protest march Friday from the Georgia capitol to Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park drew thousands, authorities estimated, but the promoted "peaceful" protest, organized under the #ATLFORUS hashtag, quickly changed when unruly crowds gathered to break windows at CNN's headquarters.
Some of the marchers broke off and objects were thrown at police, cars were set on fire, and stores were looted.
During a late news conference, the mayor urged people to stop and return home immediately.
"If you care about this city then go home," she said. "You're not protesting anything by running out with brown liquor in your hands. When you burn down this city you're burning down our community.
"If you want change in America register to vote. Show up to our polls June 9. That is the change we need in this country," the mayor told protesters. "You're disgracing our city and the life of George Floyd and anyone else killed in this country. We are better than this as a city and county. ... We're no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man. We're now talking about the burning of the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Go home."