kemp ss june 2

Gov. Brian Kemp discussed the Atlanta protests against police brutality and the status of the coronavirus in Georgia in a Tuesday briefing. (Courtesy/Georgia Public Broadcasting)

Gov. Brian Kemp addressed the protests against police brutality across Georgia and their effects on the coronavirus response in a press conference on Tuesday.

The protests against police brutality in Atlanta have lasted for five days, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Atlanta Police Department tweeted on Monday that 298 arrests related to the protests had been made since Friday. Amid these protests, there were 113 new cases of COVID-19 in Georgia on June 1, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

When asked about peaceful protesters being arrested and journalists being detained in Atlanta on Monday, Kemp said that the protesters were probably breaking the law by laying in the street.

“We have to have people follow the law. When they don’t, it puts us in a bad spot,” Kemp said. “When you have unruly people that are mixing in … stealing cones off the street to direct traffic, so that when the tear gas goes out, they can sit the cone … and pour a bottle of water on it to put it out, those are not people here to peacefully protest.”

Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said that many of the groups protesting in Atlanta were violent.

“We are convinced that based on the information intelligence we have, there are individuals here from various groups around the country, a lot of which are bent primarily on destruction and violence,” Reynolds said.

Out of the thousands of reported protesters in Atlanta throughout the weekend, there were 298 arrests.

Kemp said he has been communicating with some of the people who are organizing the protests, along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to identify peaceful groups and the ones that are “unruly” during the protests.

Members of the National Guard and law enforcement have been relocated to key locations within Atlanta, Kemp said.

The preliminary hearings for Gregory and Travis McMichael, arrested in May for murdering Ahmaud Arbery in February, will be held on Thursday in Brunswick, Georgia, Kemp said. Kemp said there will be a “strong state law enforcement presence” in the region.

“We will not tolerate disruptive or dangerous behavior, including criminal conduct [in Brunswick],” Kemp said.

With the Georgia National Guard deployed statewide to assist law enforcement during the protests, Kemp said there may be a temporary decline in the number of COVID-19 tests being administered. In a briefing on May 28, Kemp said the members of the Georgia National Guard were working with the Department of Community Health to test nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19.

With the large number of protesters gathering in areas across the state, Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the GDPH, discussed the higher risk of transmitting the coronavirus in mass gatherings. She said they are moving forward with setting up testing sites for demonstrators and law enforcement.

Kemp said that as of Tuesday, local hospitals have distributed over 18,440 vials of remdesivir, a treatment used to shorten recovery times for COVID-19 patients. He said they are receiving another 4,520 vials today. Hospitals report initial positive results from the remdesivir treatment, Kemp said.

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