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Georgia Gov. Kemp on protests: ‘Violence and destruction is unacceptable’

Governor says law enforcement will be ‘in the region’ during Gregory & Travis McMichael preliminary hearings on Thursday

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Atlanta’s mayor on Tuesday extended a curfew for another night after people spilled into the streets the previous four nights to protest the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

During a news briefing Tuesday evening, Gov. Brian Kemp said the state and America as a whole are going through a “deeply emotional time.” He addressed the violent protests in Atlanta that occurred Friday.

“What started as a peaceful protest Friday ended in violence and destruction. A powerful moment was ultimately corrupted by some with a different agenda,” Kemp said. “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.”

Kemp added that Georgia will do “whatever is necessary to keep the peace.”

The governor pointed out that on Thursday Gregory and Travis McMichael will have preliminary court hearings following their arrests in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. On Feb. 23, Arbery was shot to death by the father and son who told police they grabbed guns and pursued him in a pickup truck because they believed he was responsible for break-ins in their neighborhood.

Kemp said a strong state law enforcement presence will be “in the region” of Thursday’s hearing to support the local government.

“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,” Kemp said.

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.

Protests have broken out across the country since Floyd’s death on May 25. Even as he praised Kemp, the president 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report