CAIRO — Grady County Sheriff Harry Young is under fire from some in the community for a Facebook post that his critics say was insensitive.
A Facebook post shared by Young on May 8 featured a picture with the caption “Can we get back to the tradition of hanging traitors?” Laura Register, a local community activist and former member of the Grady County Board of Education, shared the post Sunday as an example of what she says is dangerous rhetoric.
“In light of all the unrest that’s happening in our country, I felt it was important to shine a light on what our lead law enforcement official in the county is promoting,” she said.
Young said the post, which came weeks before recent protests over the death of a black man who had been in police custody, was unrelated to current racial tensions. The sheriff said his comments were in reference to Democratic political figures such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was not meant to be taken literally.
“I was talking about traitors of America in the political field,” Young said. “They’re almost like spies. They need to be dealt with, and they used to be, but now it seems like it’s OK.”
But Register believes Young did himself no favors when, in responding to her post, he stated, “If you like destroying hard working people’s property because of one officer’s horrible decision then you are the problem !!!” — a comment she says shows Young’s true feelings about the nationwide protests.
“You wouldn’t share that if you didn’t really hold that view,” she said.
Young’s response to Register’s post attracted hundreds of comments from residents across the community, some in support, others in disgust.
Register said she was “saddened and heartbroken” by rising racial tensions in recent days when she was alerted to Young’s post by a friend. Register said she decided to share the post because she felt Young’s rhetoric was harmful and needed to be seen.
Sunday’s incident isn’t the first time Young has been criticized for comments on social media some believe to be insensitive, Register said. She said concerns about Young’s Facebook page from African Americans in the community have been largely ignored in the past.
“It’s not taken seriously when they share it,” she said.
Young is currently running for reelection in the June 9 general primary.