The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department is under fire after retweeting a “#UniteTheRight” press conference given by high-profile white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Sgt. Ray Kelly, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Department, said he was responsible for the retweet.
“This is a mistake. I know I made a mistake in hitting a retweet button,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately in my job, when I make a mistake it becomes news. I’m really sorry that it happened.”
Kelly said that the mistake began while he was gathering information on white nationalists.
“We’re gearing up for a protest in Berkeley coming up on the 27th. As part of my job as a PIO, I have to stay up to date on what's going on,” Kelly said.
Kelly said that while reading an article, he followed a link to a Periscope video of Spencer’s “#UniteTheRight” press conference.
Kelly said he’s unfamiliar with Periscope, and wasn’t aware how easy it is to “like” and “retweet” from the streaming platform — a few fumbled taps led to a retweet that Kelly struggled to remove.
We are working to take this accidental retweet down. It is not showing up in our feed for is is to delete.— Alameda Co. Sheriff (@ACSOSheriffs) August 15, 2017
“I am not a very good Twitter person — I’m not a millennial, so I’m not well-versed in social media. I tried to delete the tweet but I ended up blocking the Spencer profile, and because I blocked it, it didn’t show up on my feed, but was still showing up on 10,000 other feeds,” Kelly said.
Kelly contacted the IT department, which was eventually able to delete the tweet from the account, but an archive remains.
Twitter users upset with the retweet were quick to point out the department also followed another white nationalist, known as “Based Stickman,” on Twitter.
The Department unfollowed the account, but like the original retweet, an archive of the Department’s following list is still available.
Kelly explained that the account was being monitored for research “in regards to the rhetoric and what he was saying, in the hopes that we could gain intelligence.”
“People who know me and know who I am as a human being know my heart,” Kelly said. “I’m very embarrassed.
Kelly also disavowed the white nationalist groups on Wednesday.
“In no way do we support, defend, or agree with any of those views. We disavow them.”
Twitter users, meanwhile, expressed skepticism over the retweet being accidental.
This “accident” happens only one way: one of your PIOs intended to RT it w/ his personal acct. We look forward to learning more.— Anthony Citrano (@acitrano) August 15, 2017
And check out who they follow: pic.twitter.com/Vpd3QeXzZL— Phi KG (@bullprog) August 15, 2017
how do you accidentally retweet? It's a two step process, guys.— Stephanie Lucas (@eyesondesign00) August 15, 2017
In response, a number of groups, including the California Immigrant Policy Center, have scheduled a protest of the department for Wednesday.
“The department's claiming this is an ‘accident,’ but in fact it's part of a long pattern of racist attitudes and practices at the department,” the event description reads.
The protest is scheduled to take place outside of the Sheriff’s Department offices in Oakland.
Sergeant Ray Kelly, public information officer, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department