Police investigate online posts ‘encouraging violence’ at Carlsbad protests

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CARLSBAD, Calif. — Police say they’re investigating a man’s social media posts about forming a “gun squad” to “protect the city” at protests in Carlsbad.

“Thank you to all who have reported to us a video and messaging encouraging violence toward protesters,” the department wrote on Twitter. “We take all threats of violence seriously and violence of any sort will not be tolerated.”

In videos, which were screen-recorded and re-shared on social media, the man appears on camera calling for his followers to join him in a “gun squad” and attend protests planned for Carlsbad that are “probably going to turn into a riot.”

In text posts, which have also been captured and shared, the man says he wants to protect his city from “looters, robbers and riots.”

“If I see looting and anarchy I will pull triggers,” the man writes in one post.

“If you want to be part of protecting your city” and prevent looting, the man tells people, “come with guns, come with mace, come with batons.”

Oceanside Police Department confirmed they were aware of the posts and coordinating with investigators in Carlsbad.

As they have all over the country, demonstrations have spread across San Diego County in recent weeks, protesting the death of George Floyd.

Some of the peaceful protests have devolved into rioting and clashes with police, with the most significant destruction coming in La Mesa over the weekend. At times, people in the crowd have hurled objects at officers.

But the majority of demonstrations have remained peaceful, and despite marches across the city again on Wednesday, San Diego Police Department announced that they made no arrests and thanked activists for working with them to keep the events safe.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials have condemned looters and outwardly violent people for “exploiting” the unrest, while also characterizing them as a small fraction of the people attending protests compared to the vast number of peaceful demonstrators.

Still, the chaos and destruction that has been wrought by the “agitators,” as some officials refer to them, has led community groups to spring up online around the idea of protecting their neighborhood. While organizers say they’re a way to keep locals informed and safe, they’ve also spurred concerns about attempts at vigilante justice.

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