A Florida sheriff said he will replace legal gun owners if the protests turn violent

“If you threaten to come to Clay County and think for a second that we will turn our backs on you, you are sadly wrong,” Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels said in a video message posted on Facebook.

“Tearing up Clay County, that won’t be acceptable. And if we can’t handle it, do you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to exercise power and authority as the sheriff, and I will. Make special deputies for every legal gun owner in this county and I will delegate them for this sole purpose: to stand in the gap between illegality and courtesy.

“That is what we have sworn to do and that is what we will do. You have been warned,” he said.

The message comes when tens of thousands of Americans protested in recent weeks, protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May. Protesters have denounced police brutality and racism and called for police reform.

Most of these demonstrations have remained peaceful. But some, in the first days of riots, ended in looting and damage. Officials in different parts of the United States hinted that the violence may have been instigated by outside groups who infiltrated the protests with a hidden motive.

In his Facebook video, the sheriff said that while he had seen footage of protests across the country, police-community relations in Clay County “are excellent and not tense.”

“Look, people are not the victims of undergoing this conversation that law enforcement is bad. That law enforcement is the enemy of citizens who have sworn to protect and serve,” Daniels said.

'People go to protests to be heard': reflections on the 1960s and today

The sheriff said the officers swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, adding that “we ended that (oath) with ‘help me, God.'”

“But God is absent from the message of the media or Black Lives Matter or any other group that is becoming a show.”

CNN has reached out to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for comment.

Harold Rutledge, who will challenge Daniels in the election, told CNN affiliate WJXT that the message seemed like the sheriff “challenged rioters and looters to come to Clay County and cause mayhem.”

“Part of the problem in police policing is that some officers need more training on how to interact with all people and all situations, including how to stay calm and how to reduce situations. This county and I will replace them” will make the problem worse. ” said the statement.

At least three other candidates also on the ballot condemned the message.

CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Giovanna Van Leeuwen contributed to this report.