Sheriff stands by actions regarding rumored Klan rally in Durham
Posted August 20
Updated August 21
Durham, N.C. — Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews insists his deputies took the right course of action last Friday in handling the possibility of a white supremacist rally in the city.
Attorneys Scott Holmes, who is representing several protesters who were charged last week in the vandalism of a Confederate monument, and Greg Doucette took to social media Sunday to accuse the sheriff’s office of causing chaos and spreading rumors that a white supremacist rally would be held in Durham.
"They needed to be more transparent, absolutely, especially on a topic like this, during the time where this is going on," Doucette said Monday. "I think there was more fear than was necessary that could’ve been taken care of – abated – had they just been more transparent with everyone."
Hundreds of people turned out to march in response to the rumored Ku Klux Klan rally at the site of the vandalized statue, outside the former Durham County courthouse, forcing the closure of several downtown streets and businesses for a large portion of the day.
The demonstrations ended peacefully with no injuries, although one person was arrested at the Durham Police Department headquarters and charged with failure to disperse.
In a Facebook post, Andrews said deputies shared the rumors of a white supremacy rally with "key individuals" and community leaders as a precautionary measure to avoid the possibility of groups with opposing viewpoints clashing. Deputies were still in the process of verifying the rumors of a white supremacy rally at the time, he said.
“Sharing that information with key individuals, including a representative of demonstrators who were staged outside the courthouse Friday morning, was in no way a signal for them to independently sound the alarm ahead of law enforcement, potentially triggering needless panic and anxiety,” Andrews wrote.
“Had my office never said a word and the Klan never arrived, it would’ve been a normal Friday in the Bull City. Had it never given key leaders advanced warning and the Klan arrived, my agency would’ve been criticized for being silent with prior knowledge, albeit unverified,” Andrews wrote.
The sheriff declined a request for an interview Monday, so the source of the initial information about a white supremacist rally remains unclear.
Holmes said Monday that he stands by sending out a tweet at 9:44 a.m. Friday of a potential Klan rally after the sheriff's office told him about it.
Durham City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson then spread that news a minute later to her thousands of Twitter followers. Johnson didn't respond Monday to requests for comment.
The Durham County Sheriff's Office didn't respond to the tweets until 12:14 p.m.
Doucette called Andrews' decision to issue a precautionary alert to some people "prudent," but he said the Durham County Sheriff's Office then needed to "own it" and not let word filter out second- and third-hand.
"You deliberately stay quiet for the public when it comes to you closing off streets, and no one knows what’s going on," Doucette said. "Take responsibility for it. Say, 'Look, we got a credible threat. We forewarned people. Turns out nothing materialized. Thank you, Durham, for having a peaceful counter-protest.' Call it a day."
Durham City Councilman Charlie Reece said he thinks the sheriff's office handled the situation well and gave the public enough information.
"I think they did the best job that they could, given the information that they had," Reece said Monday. "Combining that with the closure of county offices and the early closure of the county courthouse, I think that gave people the information that they needed to make their own decisions about their safety."
Andrews stated that none of the critics has reached out directly to share their concerns or seek further explanation.