Raleigh police investigating armed protest group
Posted May 11, 2020 9:49 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2020 11:23 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — An armed protest group walking through downtown Raleigh over the weekend has gained national attention. A photographer with the News & Observer captured images of the small group inside a Subway on Fayetteville Street.
WRAL has received many questions from viewers about if their actions were legal.
The Raleigh Police Department is investigating but said in a statement, "While State law does not permit individuals to possess a dangerous weapon when they are participating in or spectating at a protest, there is nothing that prohibits an individual, or a group of individuals, from walking on a city sidewalk while carrying and displaying firearms."
North Carolina is an open carry state, meaning people can carry weapons openly on public property, but neighbors and business owners said these demonstrators are going too far and are violating the law.
In the photos taken by Travis Long with the News & Observer, armed protestors were ordering food from a Raleigh Subway with weapons either strapped to their backs or in a holster.
"This is downtown Raleigh. We don’t need to have weapons like that. It’s ridiculous," said business owner John Pugh, who believes these demonstrators are violating a common law that prevents being “armed to the terror of the people.”
"Folks are scared," Pugh said. "There’s zero reason for anyone to arrive in downtown Raleigh to walk around with AR-15’s and other long rifles in order to go to Subway."
WRAL has analyzed this protest group and believes it represents an anti-government movement that feels its First Amendment rights are being violated by business closures and the stay-at-home orders.
"They’re trying to get a rise. They’re trying to get an impact," said Pugh.
A member of the anti-government movement told WRAL, "We aren't protesting. We are simply exercising our rights and getting fresh air, sunshine, and some much needed bodily exercise." As for their thoughts on the modified stay-at-home order, the member said, "We definitely shouldn't have put business owners on the verge of bankruptcy because of a virus.”
"They’re using that language to skate things and be childish, frankly," Pugh said.
Raleigh city council member Jonathan Melton weighed in on the state’s open carry law. “It is not lawful to possess (and therefore openly carry) a firearm while participating in, or spectating at, a protest or a picket. Therefore, an individual can walk down a sidewalk openly carrying a firearm, so long as the individual is not also a “demonstrator,” he said in a statement.