How gracious were the police when, last Friday outside the Oakwood Cemetery, just a few blocks away from the Governor’s Mansion and General Assembly, they approached nine protestors who were armed — to the teeth! — and carrying signs with slogans such as “Still Here, Still Healthy,” in clear violation of state law against carrying firearms at protests.
And so the officers from the Raleigh police and the Capitol police — always on the lookout to prevent citizens from getting arrested, so it would seem — warned these men of this statute when they arrived on the scene, and further explained that if they put away their signs, then they would not consider this action a protest.
They ditched the signs, kept the guns and then, around noon, marched the few blocks to the General Assembly in what RPD still considers not-a-protest, despite what the protestors themselves said.
“We were told we can’t use our First Amendment and our Second Amendment at the same time,” Stephen Wagner, a regular at the Reopen NC protests, told the News & Observer. “We’ll be back on Tuesday to do the First.”
But, it seems, everyone except the Raleigh police knew exactly what this was: a “call to arms,” according to an organizers’ Facebook page, a “boogaloo” — which is weird, fanboy slang for the next civil war, jargonized into bastardizations like “blue igloo” or “big luau.” In a sly wink to their cute, little code word, some of the protestors were wearing Hawaiian shirts.
Clever! And yet: Plausible deniability!
So, they marched around downtown Raleigh like rejects from Fortnite, with long guns and masks and camo — Not a protest! Not quite a demonstration, even! Just a bunch of white guys walking around with weaponry exposed and faces hidden. And look! No signs!
So, if not a protest, what exactly was this armed maneuver around the General Assembly? And what makes it so different from, say, the Moral Mondays protests of 2013, where more than 900 people were arrested? Was the outcome different because the the Rev. William Barber II and his cohort didn’t have guns?
We don’t have to look too far back to find the last time Raleigh police shot a citizen brandishing a gun: It was on March 11. His name is Javier Torres, a 26-year-old person of color, and a Raleigh officer shot him in the abdomen after seeing a gun in Torres’ hand.
So, while we’re talking about the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment, we would do well to remember the Fourteenth Amendment, which deals with equal treatment under the law.