Updated at 12:34 a.m. Wednesday
Protesters in Downtown Atlanta scrambled as the national guard moved in and deployed tear gas on the crowds just after the 9 p.m. curfew took effect. Soon after the brief chaos, the crowd began dispersing. Atlanta Police Department reported that 52 arrests were made.
Protests in metro Atlanta on Tuesday began as early as 3 p.m. with a group of students demonstrating in Roswell.
Crowds of hundreds of demonstrators in Downtown and Midtown Atlanta swelled and marched Tuesday evening. Some protesters debated with police officers across barriers.
Gov. Brian Kemp warned Tuesday afternoon that he would “do whatever is necessary” to prevent more violence following protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, but he ruled out calling up more National Guard troops or law enforcement officials for now.
Kemp said he understood why people were upset, citing the coronavirus pandemic and “sky high” unemployment in addition to Floyd’s death. But he condemned the widespread vandalism and looting that broke out in Atlanta after a peaceful demonstration on Friday.
He has authorized up to 3,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to cities across the state, and sent state police to reinforce law enforcement in Atlanta. The city has been calmer since the weekend, with only sporadic violence.
“If those people that are unruly out there think that we will lay down and we will quit, you are in the wrong state,” Kemp said at a news conference.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, meanwhile, extended a curfew for another night after people spilled into the city’s streets the previous four nights to protest Floyd’s death.
Text and email messages sent to residents said the curfew would start at 9 p.m. Tuesday and go through sunrise Wednesday. Bottoms has implemented an identical curfew every night since Saturday.
Nearly 400 people have been arrested in Atlanta during protests over the previous four days, according to numbers released by police. Demonstrations have also been held in other Georgia cities, including Savannah, Athens, Augusta, Macon and Columbus.
Kemp said he has been talking to protest organizers, who have been helpful in identifying groups that are unruly. The governor and his public health commissioner, Kathleen Toomey, also raised concerns about the impact of the protests on the state’s coronavirus numbers and response.
Kemp said the state may see a decline in COVID-19 testing because National Guard troops that were helping with that effort have been redeployed for the protests.
Toomey said the state Department of Public Health plans to set up one or more test sites for demonstrators and offer testing to Atlanta police officers and firefighters, state police and the National Guard.
“When you have this many people gathered together in close proximity, you run the risk of viral transmission,” she said.
Protests have broken out across the country since Floyd’s death on May 25. Even as he praised Kemp, President Donald Trump criticized most of the nation’s governors as “weak” for not cracking down harder on the lawlessness.
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 pleaded for air.