Atlanta’s mayor extended a curfew another night Sunday and Georgia’s governor authorized up to 3,000 National Guard troops to be deployed across the state to respond if needed to protests over the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
Guard soldiers had helped enforce a 9 p.m. curfew Saturday in Atlanta, where violence has marred otherwise peaceful protests since Friday. Gov. Brian Kemp said more would be ready Sunday for demonstrations planned in Athens, Savannah and other cities.
“Hopefully we don’t have to,” the Republican governor told WSB-TV late Saturday.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order Sunday extending the curfew in the city, according to text and email notifications sent to residents. It takes effect at 9 p.m. Sunday and end at sunrise Monday.
Atlanta police said Sunday they had arrested more than 150 people overnight as protesters threw rocks at officers and broke windows in the downtown area. That brought the total number of arrests over two nights of protests to nearly 230.
The curfew was imposed after demonstrations Friday night turned violent with people setting fires, damaging police and fire department vehicles and smashing windows at businesses and restaurants.
“The protesters need to know we’re going to support their efforts in a peaceful, nonviolent protest,” Kemp said. “The agitators need to know that we’ll be there, like you saw tonight, to take them to jail if they’re destroying lives and property.”
In the downtown historic district of Savannah, a large crowd of demonstrators — white and black, many wearing masks — marched from oak-shaded Johnson Square a block to City Hall. They chanted, “No peace, no justice!” and “I can’t breathe” while hoisting signs with slogans including “Black Lives Matter” and “Can’t Jog, Can’t Breathe, Can’t Black.” An organizer using a microphone urged the crowd to stay peaceful.
A corner bank had its windows boarded and photos on social media showed police in riot gear standing in a nearby parking lot. National Guard troops used large transport trucks to block at least one intersection.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson joined the demonstration and spoke outside City Hall, promising a “data-driven” effort to root out racial disparities in the way police and other city agencies conduct business.
“All police officers are not bad. We’ve just got to get rid of the bad ones … They have no place in Savannah,” said Johnson, a former police officer who is black.
Kemp declared a state of emergency late Friday for Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta. Late Saturday, he expanded that order to include the entire state for a period extending through next weekend.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Sunday she believed the overnight curfew and the National Guard presence helped reduce violence and property destruction in the city Saturday.
“Last night was not as bad as Friday night,” Bottoms told CBS’s “Face The Nation,” adding that “many people just decided to heed my advice and stay home.”
The Atlanta mayor also had harsh words for President Donald Trump after he tweeted Saturday that “Liberal Governors and Mayors must get MUCH tougher” on violent protests or the federal government would intervene, potentially using the military.
“He’s making it worse,” Bottoms said. “This is not about using military force. This is about where we are in America. We are beyond a tipping point in this country. And his rhetoric only inflames that. And he should just sometimes stop talking.”
An Atlanta motorcycle officer was on foot at an intersection when he was struck Saturday night by someone riding an ATV in downtown Atlanta, said Sgt. John Chafee of Atlanta police. The officer had been directing traffic away from an area where there were protesters. Chafee said the officer suffered “significant injuries to his legs,” but was alert, talking and stable.
Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who worked for the Minneapolis Police Department, is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Floyd died after Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes, even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air.
Arbery was killed Feb. 23 in Brunswick, a Georgia port city south of Savannah, after a white father and son armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old black man after spotting him running in their neighborhood.
Greg McMichael, 64, and his son, 34-year-old Travis McMichael, were arrested and charged with felony murder May 7 — more than two months after the killing — after cellphone video of Arbery’s death leaked online. A neighbor, 50-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., has also been charged with felony murder. Greg McMichael told police he thought Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son before being shot.