The head of a Fairfax County police union called for a boycott of a popular pumpkin patch because a “Black Lives Matter” sign was displayed in the window of a home nearby.
Brad Carruthers, president of Fairfax Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77, said he would not patronize Centreville’s Cox Farms and urged others to do the same in a lengthy message posted on the union's Facebook page on Tuesday. Carruthers has since removed the post, writing that its intent was misrepresented and some of the dozens of angry comments that were left on it were inflammatory.
In the initial message, Carruthers posted a photo of the sign and wrote that displaying it was a “slap in the face” to the Fairfax County police.
“When Black Lives Matter emerged, it was a small group trying to do the right thing,” Carruthers said in an interview. “The fact of the matter is it seemed like that movement got hijacked toward anti-police sentiments.”
Carruthers added he felt some Black Lives Matter activists had helped foment violence toward police officers across the country.
Mike Curtis, the founder of police watchdog group Northern Virginia Cop Block, blasted Carruthers’s call for a boycott and circulated the Facebook post.
“I think they use things like this to create a false war on cops,” Curtis said. “They want to create the impression they are under attack from everyone. Cox Farms works hand-in-hand with the police.”
Erika Totten, a Black Lives Matter activist in D.C., said she views the post as an effort at “intimidation and control.” She said she also thought it was “odd” for Carruthers to focus on a small business.
The owners of Cox Farms issued a statement about the boycott on Thursday.
“We have always believed that we had a very positive relationship with our local police department,” the family wrote on Facebook. “We have contracted FCPD officers to provide security for our festival for over a decade. We have supported their fundraising efforts, donated to their Police Unity tour, employed their children, and offered discounts to officers on our Public Servants Weekends. Neither our family nor our business is anti-cop, and we are absolutely anti-violence, against anyone. For this reason, we were especially surprised that the FOP and so many local officers jumped on the call to boycott our business and make such hateful accusations against us via social media.”
Carruthers wrote in the initial Facebook post that an off-duty Fairfax County police officer had noticed the sign when he was at the farm with his family. Carruthers called the sign “disturbing and disappointing.”
“This is a time in which law enforcement is the target for criticism for almost everything they do and officers are constantly questioned by the public and the media without the benefit of all the facts,” the Facebook post read. “The presence of this sign at Cox’s Farm helps perpetuate this kind of behavior and judgment. I know you have heard it all about a million times but the truth is that ‘All Lives Matter.’ ”
Carruthers finished by writing: “I hope you will join me and my police family and make a choice to go somewhere else to enjoy your family fun this fall, where you will not be confronted by such baseless criticism and judgment.”
Carruthers wrote that the sign was displayed in the window of one of the farm's management buildings, but a comment posted from the Cox Farms Facebook account said the building was a private residence of one of the farm’s owners and was not on the farm’s property.
The post drew strong reactions from hundreds of commenters on Facebook.
“Thanks for being completely out of touch with the rest of society,” one person wrote.
Others defended Carruthers. “I agree with this police department — you can't have it both ways,” another wrote. “You can't expect extra help from your local police and post propaganda from a group calling for police deaths. BOYCOTT COX FARM. There are plenty of other places to take your kids that are a good example.”
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said Carruthers had the right to free speech, but was not speaking on behalf of the department.
“I'm a neighbor of Cox Farms,” Roessler said. “That sign does not offend me. The sanctity of human life is paramount in our profession.”