Sheriff’s office’s retweet of white nationalist press conference met with outrage

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Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, or ACSO

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A retweet of prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer’s press conference late Monday night from the Twitter handle of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, or ACSO, has drawn criticism and shock across the community.

About 11 p.m., ACSO retweeted a Periscope live stream from Spencer’s Twitter page of the “Unite the Right” press conference he had held earlier that day. Almost immediately, ACSO tweeted that the retweet was unintentional — but by then Twitter users had already circulated screenshots throughout social media, many expressing anger and confusion.

ACSO spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly, who runs the department’s social media accounts, said he had accidentally retweeted the video by hitting a wrong button while trying to close the Periscope link sent to the Twitter account. His department had been looking at Spencer’s profile to find more information about an upcoming rally Spencer plans on attending in Berkeley on August 27.

“It’s important that we know what’s going on, who the actors are, who we’re dealing with,” Kelly said. “We are doing our homework.”

The retweet of the press conference remained on ACSO’s Twitter page for about half an hour before it was taken down. Kelly said that he is “not very savvy” with Twitter or Periscope.

In response to some users’ criticisms of ACSO for following several well known white nationalists on Twitter, Kelly said the department had followed them recently in light of the Charlottesville rallies that ended in violence in order to better understand how to prepare for upcoming rallies in Alameda County. He also said the department disavows radical hate speech, but said they still had to follow what they were saying whether the department agreed with it or not.

“In this case, in Berkeley, what we’re worried about is this rally turning into violence,” Kelly said. “There’s always going to be people who think there’s some sort of secret hidden agenda. This truly was an honest accident.”

Contact Ashley Wong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.