Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels issued a strong warning to anyone considering violent protests in the county.
In a video posted on Facebook, Daniels said: "If you threaten to come to Clay County and think for one second that we'll bend our backs for you, you're sadly mistaken. Tearing up Clay County – that's not going to be acceptable. And if we can't handle you – you know what I'll do? I'm going to exercise the power and authority as the sheriff, and I'll make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county and I'll deputize them for this one purpose – to stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility. That's what we're sworn to do and that's what we're gonna do. You've been warned."
The message comes after protesters all over America took to the streets after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis officers on May 25. Protesters are standing up against police brutality and racism, and calling for reform.
While most of the protests have been peaceful, some turned violent, resulting in looting and extensive damage. However, officials in different parts of the country stated that the violence may have been instigated by outside groups with an ulterior motive.
In the Facebook video, Sherriff Daniels stated that while he had seen various images of protests across the country, relationships between police and residents in Clay County "are great and not strained."
"Look folks don't fall victim to subjecting yourself to this conversation that law enforcement is bad. That law enforcement is the enemy of the citizens that were sworn to protect and serve," he said.
He stated that officers take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and "we end that (oath) with, 'so help me God.' But God is absent from the media's message or Black Lives Matter or any other group out there that's making themselves a spectacle."
Harold Rutledge, who is running against Daniels in the elections, told WJXT that the message seemed like the sheriff "challenged rioters and looters to come to Clay County and cause mayhem. Part of the problem in policing is that some officers need more training in how to interact with all people and all situations, including how to keep calm and how to de-escalate situations. Threatening to 'make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county and I'll deputize them' is going to make the problem worse."
At least three other candidates running against Daniels have all condemned the message.