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Kemp declares state of emergency; National Guard troops on standby in wake of Atlanta protest damage




Up to 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops could be coming to the Capital city in response to protests over an Atlanta police public safety training facility known as “Cop City.”

Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency and authorizing the troops’ deployment Thursday. The order will last one week unless extended, and under it, the troops will be called to active duty “as necessary” by Adjutant General Thomas Carden.

Kemp’s order is a response to the unrest on Saturday, when “protests turned violent in downtown Atlanta as masked activists threw rocks, launched fireworks and burned a police vehicle in front of the Atlanta Police Foundation office building,” the document reads.

The move also comes as the Memphis Police Department plans to release video footage Friday showing a traffic stop for suspected reckless driving that led to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols three days later. Five police officers involved were fired last week and indicted Thursday.

The troops will have the power to make arrests “to be exercised with caution and only if the circumstances demand the exercise of such powers to protect the safety of persons or property,” according to the order.

Tensions have long simmered over the planned training complex set to take over a forest near the city. Opponents, including some camping out in the forest, say the sprawling facility will destroy the local environment, and many also say they do not want increased police presence in the city.

Things came to a head Jan. 18 when a confrontation between officers and protesters led to the shooting death of 26-year-old activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran and the wounding of a state trooper. Activists called Teran’s death a murder and rejected the police narrative that Teran shot first, questioning why none of the officers involved were wearing body cameras.

Downtown demonstrations following Teran’s death saw a police car set on fire, buildings damaged and windows broken. Six people who were arrested following the violence face charges of domestic terrorism, with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr vowing to take the lead prosecuting them.

The project has also drawn more mainstream opposition, including from local homeowners, a group of Emory University doctors and the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club:

“Thousands of Atlantans and many local organizations, including the Sierra Club Georgia Chapter, came together over the last two years to voice their opposition to this project to Atlanta’s Mayor and City Council,” the chapter wrote in a statement. “They submitted public comments, sent emails to their representatives, organized marches and rallies, canvassed neighborhoods, and more.”

“Despite these efforts, the Mayor and City Council have continued to push this project forward, ignoring the will of community members and choosing to engage in violence by sending police to harass and arrest those protecting the forest.”

During his annual State of the State address Wednesday, Kemp condemned the violence and said he met with the injured officer, who is recovering in the hospital.

“Just this past weekend, when out-of-state rioters tried to bring violence to the streets of our capital city, State Patrol, sheriff’s deputies, and the Atlanta Police quickly brought peace and order,” he said. “That’s just the latest example of why here in Georgia, we’ll always back the blue.”

Shortly after the order calling out the troops, the Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a bill titled the Georgia Fights Terrorism Act. Author Sen. John Albers, a Roswell Republican, said the bill allows the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to work in local jurisdictions without first making a request in cases of “domestic, cyber, biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism.”

An earlier form of the bill passed the Senate last year but did not get a House vote.

“Some of you might be thinking this must be a direct result of what happened over the last few weeks,” Albers said. “The answer is this was already going for a year. However, it certainly does impact what is happening right now.”

Albers said the right to protest is fundamental to America, but said those who would attack a law enforcement officer cross the line into domestic terrorism.

“You have the right to demonstrate, you have the right to have your opinion, you have the right to free speech. But if you break the law, you have the right to remain silent and be placed under arrest and we will throw the book at you,” he said.

GBI Executive Director John Melvin said the bill would allow investigators to more easily work across jurisdictions when dealing with potential terrorism.

“We’re not trying to preempt anybody, we want to work alongside all of our partners,” he said. “What this piece of legislation will do is say there’s something so particularly egregious that we’re okay with the GBI not just being an assist-only agency, but being a concurrent partner with our local enforcement agencies.”

The bill needs approval from both chambers and Kemp’s signature before it can become law.

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  1. Let’s make laws in Georgia so strong that these domestic terrorist groups wouldn’t dare come here and destroy our property. I wish the media would follow up on stories like this. When and if anyone is arrested, what happens to them? Are they serving any time? Are they fined to a point they have to pay for the damages they caused? Are they punished to a point that they will regret for the rest of their lives for the destruction they caused?, or are they turned loose to do it all over again?

  2. I expect ARC will soon propose building a law enforcement training center at Pendleton King Park to follow Atlanta’s lead. No sympathy for the armed, dead protester, but Atlanta’s mayors and city council did not put a lot of thought into using this particular forested land for a live shoot house.

  3. As one comment said the protester was armed,and shot first! Sympathy? None for him, he chose his path. Police need more training and weeding out of these “good ole boy”, look the other way law enforcement, more people of authority so you don’t have the beat down mentality of these so called law enforcement. And for the comment on building a police site at Pendleton King Park. I remember a short time ago when the park was full of perverts and thugs, has this changed? wonder who cleaned that up? someone robs you, attempts to break into your home? who you gonna call??

    • Did you wonder how the six of seven arrested, out-of-state eco-terrorists got there and who is supplying them with food, water, shelter, transportation money, legal representation, and bail money? I hope the GBI and State Police pull the strings to answer these questions. I personally wouldn’t care if they were water-boarded to get the answers. I came across https://jacobin.com/ while looking for details on this story. If you don’t think our Republic is threatened, go look at the website. Gives you an insight on how radical, socialists like AOC and her squad are made and get elected.

  4. Ms Gowdy,
    Think I recall the RCSO recently said they are not going to respond to calls unless someone is witnessing a break in or the criminal activity is in progress. An alarm going off will not suffice. Are we supposed to call the police with the phone in one hand while fighting with the other hand.
    I guess you just call the coroner and they can call the police.

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