The mayor of Atlanta may have declared “enough is enough” yesterday after weeks of unrestrained violence, but the governor of Georgia actually did something about it. After eight-year-old Secoriea Turner got gunned down by protesters — one of dozens shot in the city — Brian Kemp called up the National Guard and declared a statewide emergency. Units began deploying last night, and as many as 1,000 troops might end up joining law enforcement to put an end to the wave of violence:
Gov. Brian Kemp will deploy as many as 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops to protect state buildings in Atlanta on Monday following a burst of violence across the city that left four dead, including an 8-year-old girl, and saw the ransacking of the headquarters of the Georgia State Patrol.
Kemp, a Republican, issued the emergency order after threatening late Sunday to “take action” to curb the unrest in Atlanta if Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms failed to do so, a move that highlighted the complicated, and increasingly tense, relationship between two of the state’s most prominent politicians.
The National Guard troops will be dispatched to three locations in the city: The state Capitol, which has been the focus of protests over statues of segregationists and Civil War leaders; the Governor’s Mansion in Buckhead; and the recently vandalized Department of Public Safety building in southeast Atlanta.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” said Kemp. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”
Kemp called up the National Guard in late May too, but that was at the request of Keisha Lance Bottoms. This time around, apparently, the mayor is not requesting it, but Kemp clearly isn’t too concerned about Lance Bottoms’ feelings on the issue. The death of Secoriea Turner has changed those political calculations, even as the death of Rayshard Brooks and the charging of two police officers have changed law-enforcement calculations. The decision to charge the two officers before an investigation could be completed has the APD balking at doing anything more than bare-minimum response, which is why Lance Bottoms not only finds herself in this situation, she seems powerless to address it herself as well.
Democrats criticized Kemp’s order for focusing on the three sites only, but the order to the National Guard is a potential land mine, legally speaking. Kemp might not want to push his authority too hard at first by intruding on the city’s jurisdictions, so it makes sense to start with state property first. The longer those places remain quiet and the rest of the city does, the more pressure will come on Lance Bottoms to request National Guard assistance.
Or perhaps Kemp isn’t actually worried at all about jurisdiction but just hopes the deployment itself will disincentivize the violence. That’s possible, but not too likely once the momentum for violence has gotten to this level. It didn’t work in Minneapolis; a nominal deployment did nothing to stop the rioting, and it took a full deployment of thousands of National Guard to pacify the streets. Eventually, those troops will need to spread out to be effective, and at least according to the local news report in the video above, it looks like Kemp already has plans to order those steps.
Without a doubt, though, this undercuts Lance Bottoms regardless of her COVID-19 status. It makes her look impotent in the face of rising violence, which given the recent friction between the two, might be part of Kemp’s point. The main issue for Kemp is that the rising violence was making him look impotent too, a problem he solved last night. Lance Bottoms is on her own to solve her problems.