The police department in Salem, Oregon, has issued an apology after a video showed an officer telling a group of armed white men how to avoid being arrested after curfew so it didn’t appear the department was “playing favorites.”
As KGW8 reported, the viral video had been posted last week and drew outrage from community members. In the video, an officer was seen speaking to a group of armed men standing outside a beauty salon that earlier had attracted national attention for reopening despite the state remaining under stay-at-home orders from the coronavirus.
In the video, the officer gave a warning to the men and advice on how they should avoid being arrested once the city’s first-ever curfew went into effect.
“My command wanted me to come talk to you guys and request that you guys discretely remain in your buildings, or vehicles, or somewhere where it’s not a violation, so we don’t look like we’re playing favorites,” the officer said.
Critics said that the group of armed white men — which some had identified as members of the far-right group Proud Boys — were given a warning instead of being arrested, an opportunity that was not offered to protesters. Experts have warned that a number of far-right and white supremacist groups are trying to infiltrate protests against George Floyd’s death in order to create mayhem and potentially target people of color. It was not clear if the armed white men seen in the video from Salem had any connection to these groups.
This weekend, Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore responded to the video and offered an apology for the perception that the department was holding protesters to different standards.
“The message we have received is a concern that we are treating people differently,” he said in a video posted on YouTube. “For that, I tell you I am sorry. Sorry that there is even a thought that this department would treat some different than others.”
There have been a number of protests across the state of Oregon, including in Portland, where some of the demonstrations have grown violent, with property destruction and clashes between protesters and police.
The incident was one of a number across the country that have drawn attention for alleged police misconduct during the protests that have now spread worldwide. Many have accused police of using heavy-handed tactics on protesters, including some who have remained peaceful, and treating people of color more harshly in cracking down on protests.