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Georgia governor authorizes Guard troops; Atlanta mayor tests positive for COVID-19

Protesters chant outside a Wendy's restaurant in Atlanta after Rayshard Brooks' funeral.
Protesters chant outside a Wendy’s restaurant on June 23, 2020, in Atlanta after the funeral of Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by a police officer.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Georgia’s governor on Monday declared a state of emergency and authorized the activation of up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a weekend of violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.

A statement from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says troops will provide support at certain locations, including the Capitol and governor’s mansion, freeing up state law enforcement resources to patrol other areas.

“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. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”

Saturday night’s fatal shooting of Secoriea Turner, 8, prompted a $10,000 reward for information as authorities searched for at least two people who opened fire on the car in which she was riding near a hot spot of recent protests.

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Officers returned to the scene late Sunday to investigate another shooting, steps from where Secoriea was shot, that left one person dead and two others injured.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for justice in Secoriea’s death during an emotional news conference Sunday with the girl’s grief-stricken mother.

“You can’t blame this on a police officer,” the mayor said. “You can’t say this is about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby in the car, for what?

“Enough is enough,” Bottoms, who is Black, continued. “If you want people to take us seriously and you don’t want us to lose this movement, we can’t lose each other.”

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Separately on Monday, Bottoms announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19.

The 50-year-old Democrat is among the women named as a potential running mate for presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden. Bottoms was an early and vocal supporter of Biden.

“COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive,” Bottoms tweeted.

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She told MSNBC that she decided her family members should get tested again because her husband “literally has been sleeping since Thursday.” She said the only other symptoms she and her husband have experienced are those caused by their allergies.

“It leaves me for a loss for words because I think it really speaks to how contagious this virus is,” she said. “We’ve taken all of the precautions that you can possibly take. We wear masks, we’re very thoughtful about washing our hands, I have no idea when and where we were exposed.”

Bottoms’ national profile has risen in recent months both as a mayor handling the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the national reckoning on race that has followed a white Minneapolis police officer’s killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on May 25.

A first-term mayor, Bottoms issued a firm plea for peaceful protest as demonstrators gathered on downtown streets after Floyd’s killing — and urged the protesters to get tested for COVID-19. She invoked Atlanta’s civil rights history and her personal experience as the mother of Black sons. She won plaudits from progressives after firing Atlanta officers for using excessive force during the protests.

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She has also been noted for having criticized Gov. Kemp for being slow to order Georgians to shelter in place and for being quick to lift that order.

Violence in the city has grown worse since protesters burned down a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant where a white officer on June 12 fatally shot Rayshard Brooks after he seized a stun gun and ran. Armed people have since been manning roadblocks at the site. The area has seen frequent demonstrations against police brutality.

Earlier Monday, Atlanta police helped as sanitation crews cleared the area around the torched Wendy’s. Flowers and memorials to Brooks, as well as posters with messages protesting police brutality, were cleared away.

Secoriea was slain during a particularly violent night in Atlanta on Saturday. Kemp’s office said that the five people killed were among more than 30 people who were wounded by gunfire over the holiday weekend.

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Kemp addressed the shootings on social media on Sunday night, saying the “recent trend of lawlessness is outrageous & unacceptable.”

“Georgians, including those in uniform, need to be protected from crime & violence,” Kemp tweeted. “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace & maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.”

The order says the declaration of a state of emergency is justified by “unlawful assemblage, violence, overt threats of violence, disruption of the peace and tranquility of this state and danger existing to persons and property.” The order is to remain in effect until at least July 13.

Authorities said Secoriea was in the car with her mother and another adult when the driver tried to go through illegally placed barricades to get to a parking lot in the area. Armed individuals blocking the entrance opened fire on the vehicle, striking it multiple times and killing the child, police said.

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“She was only 8 years old,” said her mother, Charmaine Turner. “She would have been on TikTok dancing on her phone, just got done eating. We understand the frustration of Rayshard Brooks. We didn’t have anything to do with that. We’re innocent. My baby didn’t mean no harm.”

The girl just wanted to get home to see her cousins, said her father, Secoriya Williamson.

“They say Black lives matter,” he said. “You killed your own.”

A 53-year-old man was also fatally shot over the weekend near the restaurant, Kemp noted.

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“At that location, city officials have failed to quell ongoing violence with armed individuals threatening citizens, shooting at passersby, blocking streets, destroying local businesses, and defying orders to disperse,” his order says.

The governor also cited vandalism at the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters early Sunday. The order says several dozen people “armed with rocks, spray paint and fireworks” broke windows and tried to set fire to the building.

A spokesman for Bottoms didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the governor’s authorization of National Guard troops.

In Washington, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany lamented at Monday’s news briefing that she was not asked by reporters about weekend killings in Atlanta and other major U.S. cities.

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McEnany said she was asked “probably 12 questions about the Confederate flag” and was dismayed that she did not get one about the weekend shootings. She also said comments by Secoriea’s father “broke my heart.”


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