A conservative county supervisor in central Virginia is drawing criticism for a tweet about gunning down pro-marijuana demonstrators who stormed the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.).
Manuel Alvarez Jr., a Republican supervisor in rural Goochland County, saw a post on his Twitter feed about protesters trying to force their way into Harris’s office on Tuesday and tweeted his reply to his 636 followers.
“With one reload, I can take 34 of them. But my guess is one will be sufficient,” Alvarez wrote.
After logging back onto Twitter later Tuesday, Alvarez noticed the negative reaction to the post and deleted it.
“It was a joke; nothing more than that,” Alvarez said Wednesday, calling the post “stupid” during a telephone interview. “Everybody here knows me, knows who I am, and that I’m not that way. I shouldn’t have done it.”
But at a time when the country is deeply polarized and grappling with repeated mass shootings in schools and elsewhere, the tweet generated a strong and outraged response.
“Really Manny? You should be careful of what you say, sounds a lot like a threat,” one commenter posted. “You are better than that.”
“Wow, making death threats?” wrote another. “Seems like something else the @FBI should investigate.”
Tina Winkler, co-chair of the local Democratic Party committee, said Alvarez and another Republican supervisor have been posting “rage tweets” during the past few months, catching many in the quiet community of 22,300 off guard with, among other things, their ardent defenses of President Trump and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
A few weeks ago, Winkler said, she called Alvarez to ask him to tone things down after he posted tweets critical of Democrats in his community.
“We don’t do that kind of politics in Goochland,” Winkler said.
Alvarez — who was elected in 2011 on a platform of cutting public spending in Goochland — arrived to the Richmond area as a refugee from Cuba during the early 1970s after his parents fled Fidel Castro’s regime.
As a county supervisor, Alvarez has focused mostly on local causes, such as improving Internet connectivity in Goochland.
Online, however, he frequently weighs in on national politics.
“Flake should have been removed as a senator for colluding with the enemy Castro brothers,” he tweeted in response to a decision by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to call for the FBI to investigate the allegations facing Kavanaugh.
Alvarez said he is not a sophisticated user of social media. He said he tweeted his reply to the demonstration outside Harris’s office without really understanding what it was about, half distracted by preparations for that night’s county board meeting.
After noticing that someone on his Twitter feed posted that Harris’s office had been broken into, he said, his gut instinct as a gun owner was that he would want to protect himself if he were in that situation.
“I responded to what seemed like a threat inside someone’s office or home,” Alvarez said. “My office is in my home, and if somebody broke in here, I would do whatever I could to protect my family.”
Alvarez said he’s saddened by the stir he’s caused.
“I would never do that,” he said of shooting protesters. “It’s not in my character. It’s not in my nature.”
Referring to Twitter, Alvarez said: “I think I’m just going to have to get off of it.”
A moment later, asked if he was serious about quitting social media, he said: “Probably not.”