A Florida sheriff threatened to deputize armed civilians if protesters come to his county to cause trouble.
Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels issued his warning in a video statement released on Tuesday. He was flanked by more than a dozen officers who stood silently as he threatened to deputize civilians to maintain law and order.
“If we can’t handle you, I’ll 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,” Daniels said.
“That’s what we’re sworn to do. That’s what we’re going to do. You’ve been warned.”
Daniels, a Black man, evoked his oath of office and rebuked the Black Lives Matter movement. He also bragged about the “great quality of life” in the Jacksonville suburb and the force’s “great relationship” with the citizenry.
“We swore an oath, and in that oath, we swore to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the government, and that we’re duly qualified under the state’s constitution to hold office. That means for me as a sheriff and these men and women as deputy sheriffs,” Daniels said in the video.
“And we end that with, ‘So help me God,’ but God is absent from the media’s message or Black Lives Matter or any other group that’s making themselves a spectacle disrupting what we know to be our quality of life in this country,” he continued.
The video was viewed more than 4,600 times on Facebook and was reposted on Twitter, where it sparked a spirited discussion. A few commenters mentioned Ahmaud Arbery, a Georgia Black man who was killed in March after an altercation with three white vigilantes.
“Anyone remember #AhmaudArbery…There’s already 2nd Amendment and right to protect OWN property,” tweeted one critic. “He’s doing this for favor…votes for his re-election.”
“The violent people already have badges! Who’s going to protect the peaceful protestors from the thugs with badges?!” wrote a Facebook commenter. “Defending charges of police brutality with more police brutality – makes total sense! The citizens want more training for police officers and your solution is to deputize anybody who has a gun?! What is wrong with you and the people that support this?! Did y’all not see what the ex-cop and his son did in GA? That is asking for trouble!!”
“Nice of you to invoke the Fugitive Slave Act in your county. I’m sure all the Redneck Racist NRA Gun Carrying MORONS will flock to the opportunity to become Deputized with their itchy trigger fingers,” wrote a Facebook commenter.
On Wednesday, Daniels clarified his position on deputizing civilians.
“Everyone bears a responsibility to keep their community safe,” Daniels said during an interview with First Coast News.
“That does not give anybody the authority or autonomy to do anything independently,” Daniels added. “If I need help from a citizen then I’m going to ask for that help.”
Daniels, a Republican, is a first-term sheriff and up for reelection in August. He is currently under investigation for the arrest of a fellow deputy with whom he allegedly had an affair when he was part of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. When First Coast News’ Josslyn Howard asked if the video was motivated by the campaign, Daniels denied it.
“It has nothing to do with campaigning,” Daniels said. “The people don’t pay me to campaign. They pay me to keep them safe, and by God that’s what I have done and what I’ll continue to do.”