Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA) and Attorney General Chris Carr filed a lawsuit against Atlanta on Thursday afternoon for its effort to enforce stricter coronavirus guidelines than allowed in the governor’s recent executive order, which notably prohibits local governments from enacting mask mandates.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that lawsuit challenges the decision of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) “to revert to ‘phase one’ guidelines that push restaurants to close dining rooms and urge residents to leave home only for essential trips. It also challenges the city’s new mask requirements.”
Kemp, who announced the lawsuit with a Twitter link to the AJC article, said that the decision was made “on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times.”
“These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth,” said Kemp. “Just like sending in the [Georgia National Guard] to protect those living in our capital city from crime and violence, I refuse to sit back and watch as disastrous policies threaten the lives and livelihoods of our citizens.”
“We will fight to stop these reckless actions and put people over pandemic politics,” concluded the governor in his statement.
These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth. (2/4)
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) July 16, 2020
We will fight to stop these reckless actions and put people over pandemic politics. (4/4)
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) July 16, 2020
Although Kemp’s executive order prohibits face-mask mandates, it also “strongly” encourages citizens to wear masks of their own volition “while outside their home or places of residence, except when eating, drinking or exercising outdoors.”
After the lawsuit was announced, Carr emphasized the importance of wearing a mask — noting that “Georgia continues to urge citizens to wear masks” — and maintained that the lawsuit was about the rule of law itself and the governor’s authority during a public health crisis. He also argued that Atlanta can’t “continue to knowingly enter orders that are unenforceable and void.”
The Constitution gives @GovKemp chief executive power for the State, including during a public health state of emergency. The @CityofAtlanta cannot continue to knowingly enter orders that are unenforceable and void.https://t.co/yRSQZYDtgo
— GA AG Chris Carr (@Georgia_AG) July 16, 2020
Earlier in the day, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), who is reportedly undergoing vetting for the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee slot, hit back at the governor for the executive order and vowed to enforce the Atlanta mask mandate regardless. The mayor also indicated that she wasn’t concerned if the state decided to sue and put her policies under legal scrutiny.
“It’s my belief that the city of Atlanta still has the appropriate standing to mandate masks, especially as it relates to buildings and places that we own and operate,” said Bottoms, later adding that wearing a mask is a “simple” and “easy thing to do,” reports the Atlanta-based network 11Alive.
“I love to quote Audre Lorde,” said Bottoms, in reference to the 20th-century American feminist and writer. “She says, ‘I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.’ I am not afraid of the city being sued and I will put our policies up against anyone’s, any day of the week.”
“We have given very clear, data-driven metrics and advice to businesses in the city of Atlanta, and that advice is very clear: If you want to protect yourself and your customers, you should wear a mask,” continued Bottoms. “I believe that our city mask ordinance, and I believe those across the state, are defensible.”
In response to the lawsuit, Bottoms accused Kemp of wasting tax dollars that could be used “to expand testing and contact tracing.”
3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing. #ATLStrong pic.twitter.com/z4hpTrCS1B
— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) July 16, 2020
Candice Broce, a spokesperson for Kemp, told AJC prior to the lawsuit that Kemp was focused on the constitutionality of mask mandates, as previously highlighted by The Blaze.
“Like all of the local mask mandates, Mayor Bottoms’ order is unenforceable,” said Broce in a statement. “We continue to encourage Georgians to do the right thing and wear a mask voluntarily. If the Mayor wants to flatten the curve in Atlanta, she should start enforcing the current provisions of the Governor’s orders.”
The mandate will affect roughly 15 local governments, at minimum, that have adopted mask mandates in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBS News.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that Kemp’s new executive order “puts the state on a collision course with local leaders and public health experts” who argue that a face-mask requirement is a non-negotiable element of anti-coronavirus measures.
“We are not going to back down,” Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis (D) said in response to the executive order, reports the news agency.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson (D) also had strong words for the governor, and compared Kemp’s new executive order to an every-man-for-himself policy.
“It is officially official,” Johnson posted to Twitter on Wednesday evening. “Governor Kemp does not give a d*** about us. Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can.”
It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us. Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can.
In #Savannah, we will continue to keep the faith and follow the science. Masks will continue to be available!
— Mayor Van Johnson (@MayorJohnsonSAV) July 16, 2020