The mayor of Atlanta said Tuesday that she doesn’t agree with the Georgia governor’s order to mobilize the National Guard in her city as a surge in violence became a political talking point.
Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Monday and authorized the activation of up to 1,000 Guard troops after a weekend of gun violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.
The Guard troops will provide support at sites including the Capitol and governor’s mansion, freeing up state law enforcement resources to patrol other areas, according to a statement from Kemp’s office. There was no visible presence of Guard troops at either site Tuesday morning.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” the Republican governor said.
But Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Kemp issued his order without asking if the city needed extra help. The city had already been coordinating with the Georgia State Patrol, and “at no time was it mentioned that anyone felt there was a need for the National Guard to come in,” she said on ABC.
Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, called Kemp’s decision reckless. Critics of such mobilizations have said that deploying military troops on otherwise calm city streets could provoke more violence.
“His choice to deploy National Guard troops for today’s selfish purpose is outrageous and will endanger lives,” she said in a statement.
But Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia said Tuesday he agreed with the governor’s decision, and said lawless areas must not be allowed to exist in Atlanta or any other American city.
Secoriea Turner was riding in a car with her mother and another adult Saturday night near a Wendy’s that was burned after a black man was shot by a white police officer in the restaurant parking lot last month. When they tried to enter a parking lot, they were confronted by “a group of armed individuals” blocking the entrance, police said. The girl’s mother, Charmaine Turner said shots were fired and Secoriea was hit before they could make a U-turn.
Saturday night’s fatal shooting of Secoriea prompted a $10,000 reward for information as authorities continue to search for at least two people who opened fire on the car she was riding in. It happened near the Wendy’s restaurant where a black man, Rayshard Brooks, was killed by a white police officer June 12.
The fast food outlet was later burned, and the site had become a focus of frequent demonstrations against police brutality. Atlanta police helped sanitation crews clear the area on Monday of barricades as well as flowers, memorials to Brooks and posters protesting police brutality.
Secoriea was killed during a particularly violent weekend in Atlanta. Over the holiday period from Friday through Sunday, 31 people were shot in 11 different incidents, Atlanta police said.
When asked about a surge in violence in the city, the mayor said she thinks people are anxious and frustrated about the coronavirus pandemic and high-profile cases of police brutality.
“I think it’s just a perfect storm of distress in America,” said the mayor, who learned Monday that she, her husband and one of their four children have tested positive for COVID-19.