Georgia Gov. Kemp declares state of emergency after protests, mobilizes National Guard

Police arrested six people Saturday after demonstrations escalated in Atlanta.

January 26, 2023, 7:47 PM

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency Thursday in response to ongoing protests in downtown Atlanta.

Kemp ordered the state's defense department to mobilize up to 1,000 state National Guard troops to be called up to active duty "as necessary."

Authorities arrested six people Saturday when demonstrations over a proposed training ground for the Atlanta Police Department, which started peacefully, involved shooting fireworks, smashing windows, and igniting a police cruiser once protestors reached downtown.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp delivers the State of the State address on the House floor of the state Capitol on Jan. 25, 2023, in Atlanta.
Alex Slitz/AP, FILE

Police suppressed the protests quickly, authorities said last weekend.

The group behind the protests, called 'Stop Cop City,' has demonstrated against the training facility for months and was particularly moved last week by the death of a protestor when police raided a campground occupied by demonstrators.

Atlanta firefighters prepared to extinguish a police car that was set afire during a Forest Defenders protest in Atlanta, on Jan 21, 2023.
Steve Schaefer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via ZUMA Press

Police say the protestor, Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, fired first, injuring an officer, but activists have questioned authorities' description of the encounter.

The proposed training center, which was approved by the Atlanta City Council in 2021, will "reimagine law enforcement training," according to the website of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which is spearheading the project.

In a September FAQ posted on its website, the Foundation acknowledged that the 85 acres on which the facility is being built, which is part of a wooded area in DeKalb County, had been designated by the city council in 2017 as a future green space. However, the group claims that the plan "was not well-known" and said it was not binding.

Kemp's state of emergency declaration came as Atlanta braces for possible protests on Friday when Memphis authorities intend to release body camera footage of the alleged beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers who have since been fired and charged with murder in his death.

"We are closely monitoring the events in Memphis and are prepared to support peaceful protests in our city," the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement Thursday. "We understand and share in the outrage surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols. Police officers are expected to conduct themselves in a compassionate, competent, and constitutional manner and these officers failed Tyre, their communities and their profession. We ask that demonstrations be safe and peaceful."

Kemp did not indicate whether his declaration was also in preparation for any Nichols-related protests.