Atlanta, GA – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Monday afternoon and called out the Georgia National Guard to help protect monuments and government buildings after a bloody July 4th weekend in Atlanta.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” Kemp said in a statement on July 6.
“This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city,” the statement said.
“I have declared a State of Emergency and called up the Georgia Guard because the safety of our citizens comes first,” the governor said. “This measure will allow troops to protect state property and dispatch state law enforcement officers to patrol our streets. Enough with the tough talk. We must protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”
The declaration came on the heels of a bloody, violent weekend in the state capital.
More than 31 people were shot, and five died, including an eight-year-old girl.
Early Sunday morning, violent protesters vandalized and burned the Georgia State Police’s headquarters in Atlanta.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) said that a group of 60 to 100 masked “protesters” descended on their headquarters on United Avenue just after 1 a.m. on July 5 with bricks and incendiary devices, WSB reported.
“They were armed with bricks, landscaping bricks, Molotov cocktails, fireworks. Their one mission was to destruct property and that is exactly what they did,” Georgia State Police Spokeswoman Lieutenant Stephanie L. Stallings told reporters as workers boarded up smashed windows the next day.
A neighbor told WSB that she could hear the mob as they marched down her street.
“I heard the glass shatter, plate glass shatter, one of the offices. I saw one that seemed to be glowing from the inside, then I saw somebody carrying a flaming object and then threw it into a newly broken window and explode,” Kimberly Krautter said.
In addition to Molotov cocktails, troopers said fireworks were released inside the building and caused extensive damage, WSB reported.
“Fireworks were thrown through one of the windows, causing a small fire in one of the offices,” Lt. Stallings told reporters, according to ABC News.
Two DPS employees were in the building and rushed to put out the fire.
Both had to be transported to the hospital and required treatment for smoke inhalation, ABC News reported.
Investigators said protesters broke the windows all over the building and also trashed patrol cars parked nearby, WSB reported.
Protesters armed with spray paint vandalized the front of the headquarters with “KKK” and “Death by Oppression.”
“They were militant in their actions,” Lt. Stallings said. “They came to do nothing but destroy property and that’s exactly what they did.”
The governor’s order will allow the Georgia Guard to provide up to 1,000 guardsmen to support law enforcement at state buildings, including the Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion, and the state police headquarters that was firebombed on Sunday night, WBMA reported.
The building is home to several state agencies in addition to the Georgia State Police, WSB reported.
“This aid will allow state law enforcement personnel to increase patrols on roadways and throughout communities, especially those in the City of Atlanta.” the governor’s office said.
The vandalism comes on the heels of several weeks of protests in Georgia’s capital city following the fatal officer-involved shooting of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot on June 12.
Atlanta police officers began calling off work sick en masse after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard charged former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe with murder on June 17.