The Salem police department is being accused of favoring armed white men after a video of a conversation between the individuals and a police officer started circulating on social media. As protests have erupted across the country in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, the city of Salem has enforced curfews to prevent rioting and other disturbances.
Now, video footage has emerged of a police officer asking armed white men protecting their businesses during police brutality protests to "discretely" stay inside before they start arresting protesters violating the city's 11 p.m. curfew.
Although the original video was shared by Salem resident Joe Smothers on his Facebook page, a relevant portion of the video has started doing the rounds on Twitter. In the video, which has amassed more than 6.5 million views on the platform, the officer talks to a group of white men standing outside a salon armed with rifles, pistols and shotguns.
"My command wanted me to come talk to you guys and request that you discreetly remain inside the buildings or in your vehicles, somewhere where it's not a violation," says the police officer, who has not been identified. "So we don't look like we're playing favorites."
The video has racked up thousands of comments with people expressing their anger over the Salem police officer's blatant favoritism and urging the police department to fire the officer.
"This is proof that Salem OR PD is complicit with white supremacist groups," wrote one user, while another commented: "That cop needs to fired. He and the other cops in that department need to be investigated."
Armed Men Identified as White Supremacists
Although the men do not identify themselves, annotations in the video refer to them as "white supremacists" and "Proud Boys" - a far-right group of "western chauvinists" that has been labeled as an "extremist organization with ties to white nationalism" by the FBI.
The owner of the salon, Lindsey Graham, told BuzzFeed News she had posted on social media over the weekend, asking for men to protect her store because she had heard it would be targeted by vandals in retaliation for her widely publicized defiance of the coronavirus lockdown last month.
However, she rejected the term "armed militia" being used to describe the men. "I didn't call for an army to come outside my salon," she said. "I called for men to come protect my salon from rioters and looters."
"I'm seeing [online] that I called white supremacists to come defend my salon. I'm being called a racist and a white supremacist myself. I'm absolutely not a racist or a white supremacist. I would never willingly associate with people who are."
Police Chief Apologizes
In a video statement released on Wednesday, June 3, Salem's chief of police apologized to his community for the incident.
"The message we have received is a concern that we are treating people differently. For that I tell you, I'm sorry â sorry there is even a thought that this department would treat some different than others," Police Chief Jerry Moore said, adding that he personally knows the officer involved but did not reveal his identity.
Moore added that the officer had "not been fully briefed about enforcement of the curfew" before giving the armed men a heads-up.
"The impact the interactions captured on the video had on our community has been discussed with the officer," he said. "Moving forward, all officers tasked with enforcement of the curfew will be properly educated before deployment."