State spent about $2.2 million on law enforcement costs during racial justice protests

The cash-strapped state of Georgia spent about $2.2 million on law enforcement during the racial justice protests that dominated Atlanta for weeks.

Gov. Brian Kemp transferred the money from his emergency fund in late June to pay the cost of calling out the National Guard, and Department of Corrections, Department Juvenile Justice, State Patrol and Department of National Resources officers to work the protests.

“Funds are to cover costs associated with the activation of emergency operations and response to civil demonstrations in Fulton County,” the governor’s order said.

The agencies had no immediate comment about the expenditures Friday.

Kemp in late May authorized up to 3,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to cities across the state to respond to protests over the killings of  two Black men, George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

The expense figures do not include the costs associated with Kemp’s decision this week – after a particularly deadly weekend in Atlanta – to declare a state of emergency and authorize 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops to protect state buildings.

The troops have been stationed outside the State Capital, the Governor’s Mansion and the Department of Public Safety, which was vandalized over the weekend.

Kemp’s decision to help protect Atlanta, which initially saw looting after peaceful protests, came at a time when state government is struggling through a fiscal crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic recession. 

State tax collections have plummeted as businesses closed, bringing record unemployment. Kemp had to dip heavily into state reserves to pay for services in the final three months of fiscal 2020, which ended June 30. 

And he just signed a budget for this year that cuts $2.2 billion in spending, including $950 million in funding for K-12 schools.

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