ATLANTA - Georgia’s governor is sending home the National Guard, saying it’s no longer needed to control protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement Monday that the state of emergency over the protest and the mobilization of the guard would both end on Monday. He said the state would monitor activity and respond if necessary.
“I greatly appreciate the men and women of the Georgia National Guard, state and local law enforcement, and all first responders who kept Georgians safe and ensured peaceful demonstrations across our great state,” Kemp said in a statement. “This coordinated team worked tirelessly to protect communities, businesses, and everyone exercising their constitutional rights.”
Kemp had called guardsmen out after a May 29 protest in downtown Atlanta devolved into burning of police vehicles, smashing windows and looting. The National Guard was a visible and at-times heavy presence in the following days, helping to enforce a citywide curfew and preventing protesters from entering Centennial Olympic Park and certain streets.
Tear gas was used multiple times to disperse protesters near the park or Georgia state capitol. Guardsmen remained prominent on streets as late as Friday, but were a less-obvious presence on Saturday and Sunday after the city of Atlanta dropped its curfew and no problems were reported.
Those supporting the protests said the guardsmen had overstayed their welcome and were hampering people’s ability to protest peacefully.
“The National Guard should have left a long time ago. There were impinging on people’s rights and their freedom of expression. Any type of civil disorder was limited to a few hours on one night” said Gerald Griggs, a lawyer who is the vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP. “We are confident that Atlanta, Georgia knows how to protest peacefully and the protests will continue until their is real reform in Atlanta and Georgia around the issue of police brutality.”
Christopher Bruce, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, put the response of security forces in Atlanta within the context of past civil rights struggles.
“History will look poorly upon this moment when armored vehicles were patrolling the streets of the birthplace of the civil rights movement, the same streets that Dr. King marched on,” Bruce said in a statement.