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Atlanta mayor criticizes governor calling in National Guard

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) on Tuesday criticized Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) after he issued an executive order deploying state National Guard troops due to an escalation in violence in the city. 

Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Bottoms acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic and instances of police brutality had produced a "perfect storm of distress" in Atlanta and other parts of the U.S. in recent weeks. But she said the city and officials at Georgia State Patrol never felt the "need for the National Guard to come in" to address the situation. 

"The irony of that is that I asked Governor Kemp to allow us to mandate masks in Atlanta and he said no," Bottoms said. "But he has called in the National Guard without asking if we needed the National Guard."

Kemp's emergency order, which was issued on Monday, allows as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to be activated throughout the state. The governor said the declaration came in response to “weeks of dramatically increased violent crime and property destruction” in Atlanta as well as gunfire over the Fourth of July weekend that led to five confirmed deaths.

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One of the incidents involved the fatal shooting of an 8-year-old girl. Secoriea Turner was shot and killed on Saturday while sitting in a car near a Wendy's restaurant that was the site of a police killing that helped fuel escalating tensions in the region. 

Turner's death prompted an emotional plea from Bottoms for residents of the city to end the violence, with the mayor noting that the city has reported more than 75 shootings over the past several weeks. The Atlanta Police Department also reported another fatal shooting of a 53-year-old man near that same Wendy’s on Sunday.

"We are shooting each other up on our streets in this city. And you shot and killed a baby," Bottoms said during a press conference on Sunday. "An 8-year-old baby. We are doing each other more harm than any police officer on this force."

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Kemp's order says that the National Guard would provide support at state buildings so state law enforcement could use their resources elsewhere. However, troops were not seen at the Capitol or governor’s mansion as of Tuesday afternoon, according to The Associated Press.

"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 Monday. "This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city."

The unrest in Atlanta was spurred by the police deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. Floyd, 46, died on May 25 in Minneapolis police custody after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Just weeks later, Brooks was fatally shot by an Atlanta police officer who was responding to a complaint that a man was lying in his car asleep in a Wendy's drive-thru. The officer, Garrett Rolfe, has since been terminated and is now facing a felony murder charge. 

The death led to intensified protests in Atlanta, with demonstrators setting the Wendy's restaurant ablaze a day after the incident. An uptick in violence has coincided with the increased tensions. Ninety-three people were shot between May 23 and June 27, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.