Oregon police told armed white men that they didn't want to look like they were 'playing favorites' when they advised them to stay inside after curfew

Oregon police told armed white men that they didn't want to look like they were 'playing favorites' when they advised them to stay inside after curfew
People march to protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer, on May 31, 2020 in Portland, Oregon.John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Armed white men in Salem, Oregon, were given a warning by a police officer to "discreetly remain inside" before post-curfew arrests began during protests against police brutality.
  • The incident was caught on video, and the city's chief of police apologized that "there is even a thought that this department would treat some different than others."
  • Footage of the encounter that circulated on social media claimed that the warning came before police tear-gassed protesters, but the Salem Police Department told Insider in an email that no tear gas was used that night.
  • But Joe Smothers, who originally posted footage of the incident on Facebook, said that he saw "small clouds of it and flash bangs."

A police officer in Salem, Oregon, told armed white men that meant to protect businesses during police brutality protests to "discreetly" stay inside before they began arresting protesters who remained in the streets after the city's 11 pm curfew.

"My command wanted me to come talk to you guys and request that you discreetly remain inside the buildings or in your vehicles, somewhere where it's not a violation," said a police officer who has not been publicly identified. "So we don't look like we're playing favorites."

Monday night's incident was caught on camera by Joe Smothers, a Salem man who has been documenting the local events on his Facebook page, as protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being pinned down by Minneapolis police, continue worldwide.

Salem's chief of police apologized to his community for the incident in a video message on Wednesday. "The message we have received is a concern that we are treating people differently. For that I tell you, I'm sorry — sorry there is even a thought that this department would treat some different than others," Police Chief Jerry Moore said, adding that he personally knows the officer involved.

Moore said the officer had "not been fully briefed about enforcement of the curfew" before he gave the heads-up to the armed men. "The impact the interactions captured on the video had on our commnity has been discussed with the officer," he said. "Moving forward, all officers tasked with enforcement of the curfew will be properly educated before deployment."


A tweet sharing footage of the incident had alleged the officer's warning came ahead of the use of tear gas. Salem Lt. Debra Aguilar, the police department's media contact, told Insider in an email that no gas was used in Salem that night, adding, "The comments that the specific citizens were warned by police to hide prior to police using gas is not factual."

Smothers indicated, however, that he saw "small clouds of it and flash bangs."

Smothers, who posted the original video on his Facebook page, told Insider that the men speaking with police were not affiliated with the Proud Boys organization, though a TikTok video spreading the footage online had identified them as such.

Smothers did say, though, that he believed members of the Proud Boys — a self-described group of "western chauvinists" that often includes white supremacists, and has been labeled "extremist" by the FBI — were present at the protest on the same night. Members of the far-right militia group the Boogaloo Bois were also photographed in Salem.

The white men, who were armed with rifles, pistols, and shotguns, according to Smothers, were friends and relatives of local business owners who were there after rumors of antifa coming to town had spread. To protect against antifa, "spotters" had also been sitting at the top of parking garages. As of Friday afternoon, there have been no news reports of looting in Salem during the protests, though looting has occurred in nearby Portland.


Fears of antifa have continued to circulate on right-wing social media throughout the police brutality protests across the US. Police departments around the country have reported receiving tips based on social media misinformation "claiming antifa is sending buses or even planes full of antifa activists to their area," The Associated Press reported.

President Donald Trump has blamed the violence and looting that has accompanied some peaceful protests in major US cities on antifa, which is actually a "loose collection of groups, networks and individuals who believe in active, aggressive opposition to far right-wing movements," according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Far-right organizations like the Proud Boys, as well as the Boogaloo Bois, have continued to show up at protests around the country. In Las Vegas, three Boogaloo Bois were arrested after police say they were caught making Molotov cocktails.