Sheriff Mike Andrews has defended his warning of a possible white supremacist march last week, an action that drew hundreds to downtown Durham, closing streets, shutting businesses and leading to a tense standoff between a protest splinter group and police in riot gear.
The Durham County Sheriff’s Office shared a social media post entitled “Sheriff Mike Andrews Responds to Concerns Over Rally Rumors,” on Sunday.
The Sheriff’s Office had a duty to take precautionary measures, including notifying leaders in the community about the potential of a counter protest in response to the demonstrators who pulled down a Confederate statue on Aug. 14 evening, the post states.
“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,” the post states. “Our goal was to avoid the possibility of groups with opposing viewpoints violently clashing in the streets of Durham. A tornado watch is not the same as a tornado warning. My agency was still in the process of verifying the information that was shared as a courtesy and in an abundance of caution with key individuals.”
“Had my Office never said a word and the Klan never arrived, it would’ve been a normal Friday in the Bull City,” the post continues. “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."
The post appears to respond to Scott Holmes, an attorney representing eight people charged with felonies and misdemeanors related to the toppling of the statue.
On Friday morning, amid rumblings at the Durham County courthouse, Holmes appeared to push the conversation to the surface with a 9:44 a.m. Friday tweet.
“First appearances are done,” he tweeted after four of his clients had a court hearing. “White supremacists arrive at noon.”
Holmes posted on Twitter over the weekend that sheriff’s Maj. Paul Martin had told him the KKK was coming to Durham.
“Note to Sheriff: When your Major tells me, as I leave court, the klan is coming, and my clients are getting threats, I will share the info,” Holmes tweeted Sunday.