Brian Kemp

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sued the city of Atlanta on Thursday after Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she would defy an executive order barring localities from issuing mask mandates.

Kemp issued on executive order Wednesday extending Georgia’s state of public emergency, and he said that masks are “strongly encouraged” but not required.

Bottoms immediately pushed back, saying at a Thursday news conference, “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.”

Kemp’s lawsuit accused Bottoms and the Atlanta city council of violating his executive order by imposing an ordinance saying that not wearing a mask is punishable by a fine and up to six months in jail.

“Local governments, such as the City of Atlanta, do not have the ability or authority to regulate and control the State of Georgia,” Kemp’s lawsuit said.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sued the city of Atlanta on Thursday after Bottoms said she would defy an executive order barring localities from issuing mask mandates.

Kemp issued on executive order Wednesday extending Georgia’s state of public emergency, and he said that masks are “strongly encouraged” but not required.

Bottoms immediately pushed back on the order, and she imposed a mandatory mask order saying that not wearing a facial covering is punishable by a fine and up to six months in jail.

“It’s my belief that the city of Atlanta still has the appropriate standing to mandate masks,” Bottoms said at a press conference Thursday. “Especially as it relates to buildings and places that we own and operate.”

“I am not afraid of the city being sued,” she added.

Kemp’s lawsuit against Bottoms and the Atlanta city council said that as governor, he “is vested with ‘chief executive powers’ by the Constitution of the State of Georgia … It is the duty of Governor Kemp to insure ‘that the laws are faithfully exexcuted’ and he is ‘the conservator of the peace throughout the state.'”

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“Local governments, such as the City of Atlanta, do not have the ability or authority to regulate and control the State of Georgia,” the suit said. “As the Mayor of the City of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms is charged with implementing the terms of Governor Kemp’s COVID-19 Executive Orders within the city; Mayor Bottoms does not have the legal authority to modify, change or ignore Governor Kemp’s executive orders.”

Kemp also released a statement accompanying the lawsuit.

“This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times,” the statement said. “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.”

“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,” the statement continued. “We will fight to stop these reckless actions and put people over pandemic politics.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also sent out a tweet, writing, “The State of Georgia continues to urge citizens to wear masks. This lawsuit is about the rule of law.”

Meanwhile, Democratic officials across the state have skewered Kemp over his ban on mask mandates amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

Georgia was one of the first US states to begin reopening its economy despite not meeting the White House’s recommended criteria. The state has 131,275 confirmed cases to date and reported 3,441 new cases on Thursday, according to data from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

But Kemp has repeatedly refused to require his constituents to wear masks and has issued previous executive orders saying that local ordinances cannot be more restrictive than state orders.

“On one hand we’re fighting COVID. On the other hand we’re fighting our governor,” Savannah mayor Van Johnson told MSNBC this week. “Our hands should be totally and unequivocally working to fight this virus, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, our governor has chosen and continuously chosen to make a public health emergency into some type of political issue.”

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