Jun 19, 2012

Sunshine patriots? Not here.

(This is a copy/paste from the AR15.comJune 2012 Newsletter. Read the whole thing, please. - Z)
Birmingham Michigan Protest re: Sean Combs
by TheOtherDave

Monday, June 11th marked a day of protest in Michigan for Second Amendment activists. Members from Michigan Open Carry, Michigan Gun Owners, the Southwestern Michigan Volunteer Militia and AR15.com gathered to speak out on behalf of a person who had his Second Amendment Civil Right violated.

(Sean Combs meeting to speak with protestors to explain what happened and thank us for being there for him.)

In April of this year, Sean Combs, an 18 year old resident of Troy, Michigan was arrested in nearby Birmingham after police found him with a loaded M-1 Garand on a busy night in the city’s entertainment district. When the officer approached and asked for Mr. Combs’ identification, Combs refused. Michigan is not a stop and ID state, criminal activity has to be afoot for a person to be compelled to give police their identity. Sean Combs was arrested and charged with Obstruction, Brandishing a firearm under Birmingham’s local ordinance, and Disorderly Conduct.

Sean Combs needed help.

The case has been winding it’s way thru the court with the city failing to respond to a Motion To Dismiss, so to date the charges against Mr. Combs still stand. The news coverage of the arrest has been substantial-Birmingham is a wealthier suburb in the Detroit area with a great night life-not the place most would expect to find a teen open carrying a rifle.

The stories caught the attention of several state gun rights groups and a rally was planned by Jeff Kroll or "Small_Arms_Collector" on AR15.com. The plan was for there to be a rally and a march thru town that would terminate with the group sitting in on the City Commissioners meeting to voice our concerns and put pressure on the city to change how the police interact with members of the public who choose to go armed.

When I saw the Hometown Forum posting for the rally, initially I was a little tepid on going to support Mr. Combs as I am not normally a fan of the open carry of firearms in public. But, I support the right of others to do so if they choose to. What made me want to attend was that Mr. Combs was carrying the only way he Legally could at the time (No CCW permit under 21 in Michigan), and the way extra charges were thrown at Mr. Combs to pressure him to make a plea deal.

While most will agree the arrest would have never happened if Mr. Combs had just knuckled under and given the officer his ID, the fact remained that he didn’t break any law at the time of the arrest. In the opinion of myself and others who came the rally, the Brandishing and Disturbing the Peace charges were also improper for several reasons:

The Michigan Attorney General wrote a letter to every Law Enforcement Agency in the state a few years ago specifically explaining that the open carry of a firearm by itself does not constitute Brandishing or Disturbing the Peace.
In Michigan we have a Firearms Preemption law that prevent local municipalities from writing firearm laws that are contrary or more restrictive than state law-which means Birmingham’s Brandishing A Firearm ordinance isn't worth the paper it's written on.
Mr. Combs had been in the same spot for an hour and a half before an officer saw and approached him. If there had been no complaint by a citizen or call requesting the police to come and remove Mr. Combs for creating some kind of problem, how can he be charged with Disturbing the Peace?
Interest in attending the rally on the various boards seemed low leading up to the planned date. The morning of the rally it was looking like a turnout of between 7 and 12 would be likely. The possibility for the rally attendees to be harassed or even jailed with the seizure of firearms seemed high for those who chose to go, but the risk seemed worth it. With the rally 40 minutes from my home I packed up my AR variant rifle, a handgun, and plugged the city into my GPS-I had never been to Birmingham before.

Pulling into a residential neighborhood a few blocks from where the park was located, I did a gut check before I got out of the car: Am I too early? Will the police be waiting for us? What if I am the only guy to show up? It was 4:35, time to go-so I pulled my rifle out, loaded it and started to walk. As the park came into view I got a sinking feeling as I saw two TV news vans and nobody with a protest sign or gun, but as I continued I saw 8 to 10 other people with weapons under a covered area.

They were the early guys with the most important job-making the hot dogs! A few newspaper reporters were milling around, taking notes and cameramen waiting for things to get rolling… and roll they did! By the time the rally ended 3 hours later we had gathered between 35 and 40 people with 1/3 carrying some form of long gun. The turnout was amazing, young, old, black, white, men, and women trickled in as they were able to leave work. We were also joined by a city resident who had heard what happened and didn’t like what the city was doing to Mr. Combs.

Many interviews were given and at one time there were four news vans and as many as eight reporters were there along with their cameramen-not a single police officer was seen anywhere.. Sean Combs arrived in time for the march, which was nice. None of us expected to see him given his legal predicament-he turned out to be humble and articulate, a Straight A student in school and track athlete.

(Marching thru the city center.)

At 7:00pm we decided it was time to start marching. There was a flurry of activity-food being put away, garbage picked up, and then silence as we left the park. As we worked our way thru the of streets to the arrest site, reporters swarmed the marchers as people in the clubs and restaurants looked out in interest. After photos were taken at the arrest site, the walk to the city building was a short one. We entered without incident and found a heavy police presence inside the meeting room.

It was short lived; most had come for the swearing-in of a new officer who started that day. It took a few hours to get thru city business to the Public comment session, but the time passed by quickly as reporters were still conducting interviews in the hallway. When the time to speak came several articulate people spoke and covered most of my talking points so I had to come up with something else. I approached and said that I just wanted to make a statement; I combined two quotes I love-I wish I knew who wrote them:

"The mark of a Great society is not how we treat each other, but how we treat our Fringe" and "Freedom means tolerating the views and actions of those around you, even when you disagree or are repulsed by them."

And with that the meeting was over. A handful of us decided to go get something to eat at a local diner before heading home. No problems with rifles in public that night.

(Jeff Kroll (Front Left) organized the rally, it was a jovial affair with lots of laughs.)

As I walked back thru town to my car, the news reporters were polishing up their 11 o’clock news pieces in the park in the dark. I didn’t ever think this rally would ever attract the attention it did so I tried to figure out why a teenager in an upper class suburb of Detroit carrying a rifle in public would warrant the attention that it had.

Then it dawned on me: Our event that day for Sean Combs was the first time in modern history Americans decided that Bearing Arms was an appropriate response to a Government that no longer recognizes the Civil Rights of the people they work for. [Emphasis mine - Z.] When looked at reductively like that, the implications are astounding.

In the days following the rally the news coverage went country-wide, even my mother caught the story in Seattle.. So far, news coverage has been neutral to supportive, which leads me to believe that public opinion on Guns has changed-Guns are becoming Mainstream, which can only be a good thing for our rights in the future. I don’t know that we did much to help Sean Combs with the city’s prosecutor digging his heels in in the hopes of a plea deal from Sean, but the plan is to keep coming until the case has reached it’s legal conclusion. I understand Birmingham has a really nice fair coming up….

I do believe that our efforts and conduct that day helped pave the way for better interaction between armed citizens in the city and police. There is no place in an Open Society for activist prosecutorial conduct or an adversarial relationship between Law Enforcement and the public. In America we pride ourselves on a fair Justice system and competent, professional police agencies, there isn't any reason they can't coexist with people who carry guns however they choose to.

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