Durham councilwoman who tweeted rumor says info came from sheriff

Jillian Johnson (CBS North Carolina)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham city councilwoman Jillian Johnson spoke publicly Wednesday about the city’s protest on Friday, saying a rumor she tweeted came from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office. But the sheriff’s office said the information was an advisory not meant for widespread distribution.

Before the protest, Johnson tweeted “White supremacists are marching at the new courthouse in Durham at noon today.”

CBS North Carolina asked Johnson if she thought she played a role in spreading rumors to the community.

“I think I shared the information that the sheriff put out,” she said. “The sheriff didn’t put it out as unverified information. He told us the Klan was coming. I trust the sheriff’s department to have that sort of intelligence.”

Sheriff Mike Andrews’ office says there were not any verified reports of the Klan in Durham.

Johnson says she tweeted the information as a warning.

“I wanted people to know so that people could take responsibility for their own personal safety,” she said. “As a black woman in this community, I have children in this community. If the Klan was coming to downtown I would want to make sure that my family was safe.”

Friday’s protest came after protesters at an earlier rally vandalized a Confederate statue.

Although they’ve been arrested for their involvement, Johnson supports what they did.

“I’ve engaged in civil disobedience, a number of other leaders in this town have engaged in civil disobedience, and I believe that it is a very important part of progress political discourse,” she said.

Looking back on a week of unrest in Durham, she says she wouldn’t do anything differently.

The sheriff confirmed that he told city leaders about the Klan and compared him sharing that information to a tornado watch, versus a tornado warning.

He said the two are not the same.

Johnson says the sheriff’s office should be more direct and transparent with the pubic.

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