Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a state of emergency and issued an order that allows for up to 1,000 members of the Georgia National Guard to be called to duty to quell any violence that might erupt.
The order comes days after a Saturday protest in downtown Atlanta devolved into rampant violence that led to six people being arrested after police and their vehicles came under attack.
Kemp’s order seeks to “subdue riot and unlawful assembly” and is in effect through Feb. 9.
The order said the state of emergency was necessary due to “unlawful assemblage, violence, overt threats of violence, disruption of the peace and tranquility of this state and danger to existing persons or property.”
“Georgians respect peaceful protests, but do not tolerate acts of violence against person or property,” Kemp said in the order.
Saturday’s violence came in response to the death of an activist who police say shot a state trooper before he was killed when police returned fire. The activist was among a large group of protesters who have been trying to block the construction of a police training facility.
On Thursday, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said a “very strong” network of officials is on the alert for rioting, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We’re going to continue to protect the First Amendment. We are dedicated to that. … But we are the law enforcement agency in the city, and we’ll use all the resources to address any issue that may arrive,” he said.
In addition to the tensions with protesters who have denounced the training facility as “Cop City,” authorities are concerned about possible violence that may accompany Friday’s scheduled release of bodycam video showing the death of Tyre Nichols, a black man who was killed by Memphis police.
Five officers have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Nichols’ death, according to WAGA-TV.
WAGA reported that Atlanta police will be working 12-hour shifts on Friday in preparation for any outbreak of violence connected to the Nichols video.
On Thursday, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said many of those involved in the protests against the police training facility are “outsiders who have come here for their own political aims,” the Journal-Constitution reported.
“They want to scare and disrupt,” he said, adding, “But we do not tolerate violence or property destruction. … We find those who commit such acts, we arrest them, and we charge them appropriately.”
Saturday’s riots resulted in damage to at least three businesses. One police vehicle was set on fire.
“What I saw wasn’t peaceful,” witness David Abrohams said, according to WAGA. “I mean, blowing up cop cars and throwing fireworks at police officers is not peaceful.”
Schierbaum said the protest began peacefully, but at one point “a group inside that marching crowd decided to start committing illegal acts, including breaking windows and attacking police cruisers that were in the area.”
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that breaking windows or setting fires is not protesting. That is terrorism,” he said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.