Michigan Militia Puts Armed Protest in the Spotlight: Gun-carrying protesters have been a common sight at some demonstrations calling for coronavirus-related restrictions to be lifted, US News, May 2, 2020
Gun-carrying protesters have been a common sight at some demonstrations calling for coronavirus-related restrictions to be lifted. But an armed militia’s involvement in an angry protest in the Michigan statehouse Thursday marked an escalation that drew condemnation and shone a spotlight on the practice of bringing weapons to protest.
The “American Patriot Rally” started on the statehouse steps, where members of the Michigan Liberty Militia stood guard with weapons and tactical gear, their faces partially covered. They later moved inside the Capitol along with several hundred protesters, who demanded to be let onto the House floor, which is prohibited. Some protesters with guns — which are allowed in the statehouse — went to the Senate gallery, where a senator said some armed men shouted at her, and some senators wore bulletproof vests.
For some observers, the images of armed men in tactical gear at a state Capitol were an unsettling symbol of rising tensions in a nation grappling with crisis. Others saw evidence of racial bias in the way the protesters were treated by police.
In Wisconsin, about a dozen men, several wearing camouflage, carried what appeared to be assault rifles and other long guns and stood around a makeshift guillotine at a protest attended by about 1,500 people. In Arizona, a group of men armed with rifles were among hundreds of protesters who demonstrated at the Capitol last month demanding Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lift his stay-home order. Many in the crowd also carried holstered pistols.
Gun groups have been involved in organizing several of these protests — which drew activists from a range of conservative causes. Gun rights advocates believe the restrictions on some businesses and closure of government offices are a threat to their right to own a gun, said Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America, a group that bills itself as the “no compromise” gun lobby.
Hammond said he routinely gets messages and emails from people around the country, complaining that authorities are making it impossible to exercise their Second Amendment rights. In some cases, that has meant orders closing gun shops or gun ranges or offices shutting down that process permits.
But Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun-control group, considers these protests organized by the ultra-right and not necessarily reflective of most gun owners.
While it’s legal to openly carry firearms inside some state capitols, Watts called it “dangerous to normalize this. Armed intimidation has no place in our political debate.” She said those carrying guns at protests are almost always white men, and are “a vocal minority of the country” that opposes the stay-at-home orders.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support stay-at-home orders and other efforts to slow the spread of the virus, according to a recent survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The visual of heavily armed protesters, mostly white men, occupying a government building to a measured response by law enforcement is a particularly jarring one for many African Americans.
It draws a stark contrast to the images that emerged from Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, when crowds of unarmed, mostly black men, women and children took to the streets in protest after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. Police shot tear gas to disperse the crowds, further inflaming the tensions between predominantly black community and law enforcement. It worsened when members of an armed militia group called the Oath Keepers arrived, some of them armed and sitting on rooftops. Jon Belmar, who was then St. Louis County’s police chief, said at the time that the presence of the group, whose members wore camouflage, bulletproof vests and openly carried rifles and pistols, was “unnecessary and inflammatory.”
“Systemically, blackness is treated like a more dangerous weapon than a white man’s gun ever will, while whiteness is the greatest shield of safety,” said Brittany Packnett, a prominent national activist who protested in Ferguson.
The Michigan demonstrators, she added, “are what happens when people of racial privilege confuse oppression with inconvenience. No one is treading on their rights. We’re all just trying to live.”
Legally Armed Black Citizens Patrol White Neighborhood Where Ahmaud Arbery Was Killed: The show of force came as there have been calls for more Black people to arm themselves, NewsOne.com, May 12, 2020
The protests in Georgia sparked by the killing of Ahmaud Arbery bore a number of similarities to the others we’ve seen following what seems like a neverending string of controversial shootings of unarmed Black men by white people. But in the rural town of Brunswick — where father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael racially profiled Arbery before getting their guns, hopping in a truck, hunting him down and killing him in the middle of a road in broad daylight — there is one key difference the [sic] separates the protests there from others: demonstrators were armed.
And not only were they armed, but they were also legally armed Black citizens who came out to protest in the town’s Satilla Shores neighborhood where the McMicheals are accused of murdering Arbery in February. It’s a neighborhood that is very white and conservative, as seen in images from the protests that show Trump-Pence 2020 signs on homes’ lawns.
Likely sensing that the neighborhood’s residents didn’t want the protesters there — especially the armed ones — one of the Black men who were carrying machine guns seemed to almost dare someone to say something about them being there.
“You think they would have shot me if I was running through they goddamn neighborhood?” the man who, like the other armed protesters, was wearing a camouflage bulletproof vest and a mask to conceal most of his face, asked rhetorically. “Well I’mma give them an opportunity,” he added while walking toward the protest.
One local news outlet identified the men as being members of the Black Panther Party.
Armed Black Panthers showed up in the neighborhood of the men who murdered Ahmaud to protect protesters! Two of the men involved in the murder have been charged but a third person who filmed the murder, is still free! #JusticeForAhmaudArbery pic.twitter.com/LvVqonfV7I
Armed Black Panthers showed up in the neighborhood of the men who murdered Ahmaud to protect protesters! Two of the men involved in the murder have been charged but a third person who filmed the murder, is still free! #JusticeForAhmaudArbery pic.twitter.com/LvVqonfV7I— IG: @themelaninshadesroom (@tmelaninsr) May 12, 2020
Georgia gun laws allow for legally licensed individuals to openly bear arms in public even if there is no apparent cause for self-defense.
The armed citizens legally protesting Arbery’s death came as there have been calls for more Black people to arm themselves because of continued consequences from the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black people well beyond the health spectrum. As Nylah Burton, a Black woman, wrote for ESSENCE, the combination of the way law enforcement tried to sweep Arbery’s death under the rug; the recent series of police brutality over nonviolent social distancing violations; and the armed militias storming statehouses across the country have left her reluctantly considering getting a gun.
Moral of these two stories? White men carrying guns, bad. Immediate cause for the corporate media across the United States to promote the idea of white people planning an insurrection and just how much fear non-whites face on a daily basis.
Black men carrying guns, good. Not only is this a positive, but it is of absolutely no concern for black men to be armed with semi-automatic weapons and patrolling a white neighborhood (in a racially/ethnic intimidating manner).
Could you imagine a white jogger murdered in a gentrifying neighborhood in Atlanta (still majority black), and then a bunch of armed white people showing up to patrol the black community? It would be an international incident immediately, with the Atlanta Police Department, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, GBI, and probably the Georgia National Guard immediately called in to deal with this terror threat.
For members of the Black Panthers to do this in Brunswick, Georgia is a story barely worth reporting in the local press.
Welcome to 2020 America, where white privilege means having Black Panthers open carry semi-automatic weapons in your neighborhood, engaging in racial/ethnic intimidation no member of the corporate media cares to document. That’s real privilege, folks.