- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2020

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows hosted a large wedding for his daughter that appeared to violate a Georgia order and city of Atlanta guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Photos of the event show many of the guests crowding together, dancing and hugging during the May 31 nuptials at the Biltmore Ballrooms Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

About 70 guests, including U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, wore tuxedos and ball gowns but no masks at the indoor wedding, and photographs show groups of people clustered closely together in the same room throughout the evening, the newspaper said.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s orders at the time banned gatherings of more than 10 people. The governor later loosened some coronavirus restrictions.

Novare Events, which plans events at the Biltmore Ballrooms, verified ahead of time that it would be acting within the law and in compliance with details of the governor’s order, its president said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Kemp’s order allowed 10 persons per every 300 square feet (28 square meters) to gather in some circumstances if spaces met certain criteria, Myrna Antar said. The company met that standard, and has followed all mandates and precautions, she said.

“And while we do not comment on client’s events, we can confirm that the entire 16,000 square feet of the space was reserved for this small wedding - greatly exceeding the per person square footage allowed by the Order,” Antar added.

Meadows’ staff did not respond to emailed requests for comment from The Associated Press on Thursday.

On the same night as the wedding and less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) away, riot police were firing tear gas and Georgia National Guard troops were sealing off parts of downtown Atlanta during protests in response to the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. More than 60 people were arrested, Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee said.

The protests over racial injustice broke out in other cities across the U.S. as well, including in Washington, D.C., where at one point Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to an underground White House bunker previously used during terrorist attacks. The West Wing was mostly empty, and many staffers were told to stay home to avoid the protests. The AP reported at the time that Meadows was out of town celebrating his daughter’s wedding.

The Biltmore Hotel was one of Atlanta’s most lavish gathering places for many years after it opened in 1924. According to its website, the building still features “original handcrafted plaster relief ceilings, restored crystal chandeliers, Palladian windows and Tennessee marble floors.”

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