ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp addressed the protests gripping Atlanta and other pockets of Georgia in a press conference on Tuesday, saying that while "Georgians are filled with fear, anger and righteous impatience," he will ensure that the state "will do whatever is necessary to keep the peace."
Kemp made his comments following four nights of protests in the city, which over the weekend gave way to chaotic confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement.
They have, however, increasingly dissipated much more quietly, much more closely to the 9 p.m. curfew that was extended again Tuesday.
Here are the governor's full comments:
"This is a deeply emotional time not only in Georgia, but across America. We are gripped by a global pandemic. COVID-19 has threatened the health and well-being of families and communities here in Georgia. This healthcare crisis has created economic hardship, our unemployment numbers and uncertainty are sky high right now, and during this unprecedented moment we have witnessed injustice with our own eyes. Georgians are filled with fear, anger and righteous impatience. I realize that people are hurting and have more questions than answers right now.
"I support the right to peacefully protest, to honor the life of George Floyd and to demand action. As the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, this place where peaceful protest ultimately shook up the status quo, the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this is a city where his legacy looms, urging us all to seek justice, love, mercy and treat others fairly with kindness and respect.
"As what started as a peaceful protest Friday ended in violence and destruction, a powerful moment was ultimately corrupted by some with a different agenda. And from the start we have worked with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' office and local law enforcement to provide assistance and support, at their request I have deployed the Georgia National Guard and hundreds of law enforcement officials to key locations across the city. And over the past several days we have provided reinforcements to Atlanta as well as communities across Georgia to enhance public safety and preserve peace.
"I can not tell you how proud I am of the men and women who at a moment's notice were on the ground working to protect not only people but property, and let me be clear: I am outraged that Georgians are now in harm's way because some are using this moment to riot, to loot, and to compromise the safety of our citizenry.
"I will tell you that violence and destruction is unacceptable. We will continue to do our part in conjunction with local leaders to plan, mobilize and respond appropriately to threats that undermine our safety. We will do whatever is necessary to keep the peace.
"That being said, I still have hope that we can emerge from this stronger than ever before and more united than ever before. I truly believe that our best and brightest days are before us and they are still to come. This is a moment to unite Georgians and find solutions to problems that we face. We have overcome incredible challenges in this city and in this state together. I know that most are trying to protest in a productive way without compromising the safety of others. One story we were actually made aware of that happened yesterday - there was a group of peaceful protesters moving down Auburn Avenue as we neared the curfew. (Georgia State Patrol) troopers were on hand because that section of the street is close to the interstate. The troopers reported to the leader of that group to remind fellow protesters of the curfew and asked them to leave once they got back to their cars after a successful, peaceful day, and that is exactly what they did.
"These are the kind of folks who are having their voices heard and are inspiring real change in doing things the right way, but also speaking out against the injustice that we have witnessed.
In regards to our law enforcement and state personnel, I want to thank all of the men and women who are working night and day with very little rest here in the state operations center and those out in the field of battle. I have never been more proud in my life, other than maybe when my children were born. We can't thank you enough for the service and sacrifice that you are giving to our state and our local communities as we speak. I also want to thank all of the local leaders, the members of the Georgia National Guard our community leaders and citizens who have helped us prepare for non-violent protest and mobilized the right resources on the ground. Over the past few days your partnership has been truly invaluable."
The governor also addressed the upcoming hearings for Gregory and Travis McMichael, who face murder charges in the February killing of Arbery.
"On Thursday in Brunswick, as you know Gregory and Travis McMichael will appear for preliminary hearings following their arrest for the death of Ahmaud Arbery. We will have a strong state law enforcement presence in the region to support the local government, including the Georgia State Patrol, the Department of Natural Resources officers, Georgia Guard troops, GEMA officials and other related state agencies, and we will take the appropriate actions to hold bad actors accountable if they try to infiltrate what has been very peaceful gatherings in that community for well over a month now.
"And let me be clear once again: We will not tolerate disruptive or dangerous behavior, including criminal conduct. And we will put the safety of our citizens first."
MORE ON THE ATLANTA PROTESTS