Gov. Kay Ivey has given the authorization to activate up to 1,000 members of the Alabama National Guard should “violent protests” like those seen over the weekend continue into the coming week.
As Lagniappe reported, thousands of people filled the streets of Mobile Sunday to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after Minneapolis police officer Darren Chauvin kneeled on his neck for several minutes in a video that has since gone viral and caused unrest throughout the country.
The local demonstrations were mostly peaceful, though some cars and buildings sustained mild vandalism and police had to use crowd control devices on at least two occasions — deploying tear gas into a group that tried to block Interstate 10 and pepper balls to disperse a crowd on Airport Boulevard Sunday night.
However, things were worse in Alabama’s largest city. Birmingham saw peaceful protests escalate into looting, assaults and significant vandalism. Reporters from more than one news outlet sustained injuries from unprovoked attacks and a controversial Confederate statue was toppled in a city park.
Monday morning, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin declared a state of emergency and issued a citywide curfew in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
He said the city respected the rights of peaceful protestors but had no problem arresting any “looters” and “anarchists” damaging property.
In condemning Floyd’s death herself, Ivey acknowledged Alabama’s history of protests linked to the Civil Rights Movement. However, she also quoted one of that movement’s leaders, Congressman John Lewis, D-Georgia, who over the weekend said “rioting, looting and burning is not the way.”
“I will always support the right of the people of Alabama to peacefully lift your voices in anger and frustration,” Ivey said in a written statement released by her office. “However, we will not allow our cities to become a target for those, especially from other states, who choose to use violence and destruction to make their point. What I saw happen last night in Birmingham was unbecoming of all those who have worked to make Birmingham the great city it is. Going forward, this cannot be tolerated.”
Ivey went on to say “state assets” would be made available to any Alabama city that needs them to respond to protests or riots that escalate to violence. She also authorized Adjutant General Sheryl Gordon to activate up to 1,000 guardsmen, should they be needed to respond to “violent protesters.”
With the exception of a self-billed “peaceful protest” in the city of Madison this evening, there doesn’t appear to be any planned and organized demonstrations like there were over the weekend. However, other cities have seen massive protests, and in some areas riots, persist for days in the wake of Floyd’s death.
In her statement, Ivey said authorizing the deployment of the Alabama National Guard was “strictly a preparedness measure,” noting they haven’t been tasked to operate in any specific areas at this time.
“While there is no immediate need for us to deploy our Guard, I have given authorization to General Gordon to be on standby, should our local and state law enforcement need additional support,” she wrote. “[The Guard] stands ready to assist when peaceful protests become violent and dangerous to our public safety.”
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