The police chief in Salem, Oregon, has apologized after a viral video showed one of his officers telling a group of armed white men protecting a store to shelter inside to avoid being arrested for violating a curfew so officers "don't look like [they're] playing favorites."
"We're going to really enforce the citywide curfew shutdown so we can arrest anybody walking around," the unidentified officer tells the men. "My command wanted me to come talk to you guys and request that you guys secrete people inside the businesses or in your vehicles somewhere where it's not a violation ... so we don't look like we're playing favorites."
He adds, "That would be unhealthy."
A clip of the encounter uploaded to TikTok went viral after it was shared on Twitter.
The person who made the TikTok, Dani Green, 20, told BuzzFeed News she did not film the video but saw it posted on Facebook and wanted to share a clip on platforms where she believed younger audiences would see it.
"I didn't think what they were doing was right, and I wanted more people my age to see that, both locally and nationally," she said.
In a longer clip posted to Facebook, which said the incident occurred on Monday night, the same officer can be heard telling white men he and his fellow officers had "really appreciated the attitude you guys have all had."
One of the men can then be heard telling his fellow armed men to get off the streets. "If they let us be out here," he says, "then people will say, 'We can be out here.'"
The video also shows the same officer explaining the curfew law to the men and warning them there would soon be a heavy presence of police in the area.
The video was filmed outside Glamour Salon, a local business that became an Oregon flashpoint when its owner, Lindsey Graham, defied the coronavirus lockdown orders last month to reopen and was subsequently fined.
Graham, 39, told BuzzFeed News she had posted on social media over the weekend, asking for men to protect her store because she had heard it would be targeted by vandals in retaliation for her defiance of the coronavirus lockdown.
But she rejected the term "armed militia."
"I didn't call for an army to come outside my salon," she said. "I called for men to come protect my salon from rioters and looters."
"I'm seeing [online] that I called white supremacists to come defend my salon. I'm being called a racist and a white supremacist myself. I'm absolutely not a racist or a white supremacist. I would never willingly associate with people who are."
She added, "It was not my intention to involve myself in any kind of racist activity."
In a video shared on Thursday, Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore said his department had received multiple emails and calls about the video of the officer.
"The message we have received is a concern that we are treating people differently. For that I tell you, I am sorry," he said. "Sorry that there is even a thought that this department would treat some different than others."
Moore declined to name the officer, and the department did not respond to requests for comment for this story. However, the police chief said the officer had been spoken to.
"The impact the interactions captured on the video had on our community has been discussed with the officer," he said. "Unfortunately, he had not been fully briefed about enforcement of the curfew before he spoke with the group. Moving forward, all officers tasked with enforcement of the curfew will be properly educated before deployment."
Graham, the salon owner, said she had only seen the video of the incident involving the officer once, but believed the officer was not doing anything wrong.
"The chief of police should not have to defend himself for an officer enforcing the law and telling people he's going to enforce the law," she said.
She said she believed the officer was not demonstrating favoritism and that protesters had been warned via megaphone to obey the curfew.
"It's hard for me to have an unbiased opinion on the matter because I don't approve of people videotaping the police to try to put them in a compromising position," she said, "to disrespectfully stand there to try to manipulate a situation to make them look bad when they're dealing with a lot right now."
Green, the person who shared the video on TikTok, said the chief's response had angered both the left and right in Salem.
"It honestly made me more mad," she said, "because he was just making really weak excuses and didn't take any action."