Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp delivered a briefing on the pandemic and protests from the State Operations Center Tuesday afternoon.
He began by calling this is a “deeply emotional time” in Georgia and America. People are frustrated by the healthcare crisis, economic hardship, unemployment, and uncertainty.
“And during this unprecedented moment, we have witnessed injustice with our own eyes. Georgians are filled with fear, with anger, and righteous impatience. People are hurting, and we have more questions than answers. I support the right to peacefully protest, to honor the life of George Floyd, to demand action,” Kemp said, but, he continued, “What started as a peaceful protest on Friday ended in violence and destruction. A powerful moment was ultimately corrupted by some with a different agenda.”
Kemp said he is “outraged” that law enforcement and National Guard troops are in harm’s way “because some are using this moment to riot, loot, and compromise the safety of our citizenry.” Kemp repeated the words he first spoke this weekend when he said, “We will do what’s necessary to keep the peace.”
That won’t include calling up more Guard troops or asking for federal reinforcements, at least for the time being according to National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden who also attended the briefing.
At GEMA press conference, Gov. Brian Kemp confirms with Adjutant General Thomas Carden that he has no plans to ask for more reinforcements from his National Guard pic.twitter.com/YBi29yjAZ8
— Georgia Recorder (@GeorgiaRecorder) June 2, 2020
Kemp praised law enforcement and the Guard, as well as community leaders and citizens who helped prepare for non-violent protests and mobilize the right resources on the ground.
The governor cautiously looked ahead to Thursday when the already tense situation in Georgia could worsen as two of the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are due to appear in a South Georgia courtroom for their preliminary hearings. There will be a strong showing of state and local law enforcement in the region to guard against any violence. Kemp said officials will take appropriate action to hold bad actors accountable if they try to infiltrate peaceful gatherings to cause chaos. “Let me be clear: we will not tolerate disruptive, dangerous behavior or criminal conduct,” Gov. Kemp said.
The governor transitioned into addressing the pandemic by encouraging all law enforcement officers and demonstrators “to get tested immediately.” The state will set up a pop-up test site in Fulton County for those who have participated in the protests.
Kemp spoke of “positive progress” in the state’s fight against COVID-19 with reduced hospitalizations, increased bed capacity, and a decreasing percentage of positive cases.
To date, the state has distributed more than 18,440 vials of Remdesivir, and was due to receive another 4,520 vials on June 2. The anti-viral drug has shown promising results in helping to ease the effects of COVID-19.
The state department of public health has established more than 150 testing sites in Georgia and conducted more than 151,000 tests. Kemp said the National Guard will return to its original mission of testing and infection control in long-term care facilities once the protests subside.
“We are still battling a pandemic, and we need to stay vigilant,” Kemp said. “Wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands regularly.” He also encouraged Georgians to return to their regular medical routines. “We’re starting to see more patients return for regular screenings, but we’re also seeing an increase in more serious diagnoses because people have delayed medical intervention. Don’t skip medical appointments. Prioritize your health.”