The South Carolina Sheriff’s use of a county Facebook page to condemn kneeling during the national anthem has garnered strong reactions to online support and disapproval.
In a statement posted Sunday on the York County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, Sheriff Kevin Tolson said, “I will only bow (or kneel) for one unit and one unit – my God.”
According to the statement, “As Sheriff of New York County, here is my position to kneel during the national anthem.” “Our flag was made of unity – 50 stars for 50 states. It represents the melting pot of all the great men and women who have mixed and beautified this country.”
The statement goes on: “Those of you who want to kneel or bow for the flag during the national anthem, just know that you are kneeling or bowing down to our God, who is peace, unity and for all Loves – regardless of race, gender; nationality. “
The statement concluded, “We will lead KNEEL to all and to only one. Kevin.”
The Facebook post had drawn more than 2,000 comments by Monday afternoon and was shared nearly 1,000 times. Tolson did not immediately return phone and email requests for interviews Monday.
William Roddy, a councilman at York Council who is 74.8 percent white, was not only taking exception to Tolson’s statement, but it was being posted on a county Facebook page.
“You don’t need to tell me how to protest,” he said in a phone interview on Monday. “As a sheriff deputy, you would think he would be in favor of law and order and would not put those statements on the official Sheriff Department page. This is very unfair.”
Roddy, who is black, commented on the post: “I felt that we established that protesting and kneeling is not about the flag, but about social injustice. Peaceful protest is preserved under the flag’s wires and straps ! “
Roddy wrote that he wished people “would stop trying to change the narrative and realize that this is an issue in this country.”
“If it was his personal page – and we all have it – that he is completely within his rights that,” Roadie said. “But when you’re using any part of the county’s operating system to reflect your personal views as a sheriff, I think it gets in the real gray area.”
Roadie, who lives in the city of Rock Hill, said the sheriff’s comments may seem misleading to anyone visiting the York County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page because they can be interpreted as views across the county.
He said Tolson’s remarks create “a whirlwind of uncertainty” about how the protesters are policed.
“The narrative has always been changed to remove the true message and the true issue,” said Roddy. “It is not against the flag. It is not against the men in blue. It is about what is happening in this country.”
The protest gained prominence in 2016 after Coleen Kaepernick, then a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem before an NFL game in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police brutality against people of color. Could.
Death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25; Brio Taylor killed on March 13 at his home in Louisville, Kentucky during a police raid; The death of Ahmud Arbe, who shot and killed two whites on February 23 in Brunswick, Georgia, sparked national demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.
Many people, including some police officers, have become part of those protests, and in some cases, some officers later regretted doing so.
Roddy said York County is inclusive and respectful and Tolson’s remarks are divisive.
“We really come together as a community,” he said, noting that a few years ago a sheriff deputy was locked in the line of duty, people of all nationalities behind the deputy and servicemen from across the county And women stayed around.
“I’m sure this is going to bring some change to the department because the people who work for the sheriff department who are African American, what are they thinking about the sheriff and that statement?” He asked. “How do they feel about working for a sheriff who does not accept the fact that when they are not in their uniforms, they can be subjected to some racial injustice?”
Roddy said he plans to ask the state’s attorney general if the sheriff is allowed to post his convictions on the county Facebook page.
Terrell Hutchison, 28, also a Fort Mill correctional officer in York County, expressed similar concerns in an interview on Monday.
Hutchison said that while everyone deserves their opinion, he believes it was inappropriate for the sheriff to post his beliefs on a department page because the York County Sheriff’s Office has many individuals who do not publicly share their opinions can do.
“All he did on the department page was to randomly post,” Hutchison said.
26-year-old Jasmine McKay of Rock Hill commented on the Facebook post on Sunday, “I never felt ashamed to be a resident of York County.”
“The problem for me is not what he said, however, I disagree,” he said on Monday. “I felt this is something that should have gone from the entire county, not the official page, but the individual page.”
McKay, who works in the greenhouse, said the sheriff is recalling why people protest and kneel.
“How are we, as people of color, if there is something wrong with what we do? We have to obey.” He asked. “We march and they say it’s looting and rioting. We kneel down and they say it’s very humiliating, although I’ve personally talked to a lot of veterans and whether they think it’s abusive Whether or not they understand why it is being done and it should be done. “
Sheriff also posted what was “out of line” because “he pushed religion” on a government page, McKay said.
But others expressed support for the sheriff’s comments and praised him for speaking out.
“Aman Kevin,” a York County resident wrote. “No thanks for being afraid to put it out.”
Another commented: “Thank you for sharing this! I, for one, am with you and will honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom by standing during the national anthem!”
Glenda Grigg, who lives in Clover, a small town near the North Carolina Line, neither expressed disapproval nor supported the sheriff’s statement.
“Whether you agree or disagree, he is an elected official so you must know his beliefs when you vote,” Grigg said Monday. “This is an important issue in the country right now, and I know that when I vote, I want to know where people stand.”
“We need to remember that we need to know the platforms and where these individuals stand,” he said.
A later statement posted on the York County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page stated that Toulson, who himself was elected as a Republican in 2016 and is running unopposed in November, He was asked “several times about his feelings about kneeling during the national anthem” and decided to “publish a statement about his views using social media because he believes his constituents Has the right to know their beliefs about this social issue. ”
“Sheriff Tolson understands that not everyone agrees with his opinion on this issue,” the statement said. “The ability to voice and respect a differing opinion is one of the founding principles of our country and Sheriff Tolson hopes that speaking freely will help to continue a beneficial conversation and ultimately bring peace and unity to our society.”
At his elected place, the statement said, the sheriff is not bound by York County government policies regarding the use of social media.
“Every statement he makes is his own,” Post said.