They will be arriving in peace, and hoping to carry a message.
Omar Chatman, 41, is one of the organizers for 1,000 brothers and sisters in arms, a pro-Second Amendment walk planned for Saturday led primarily by Black gun owners in Oklahoma.
The demonstration, which will begin at 2 p.m. at Ralph Ellison Memorial Library, is intended to bring attention to the fact that Black Americans’ constitutional rights to carry firearms are not often respected, Chatman said.
All are welcome to march in solidarity with the group, which expects between 200 and 300 people to attend in what they are saying will be a peaceful mile walk to the Governor’s Mansion.
“As an African American, it’s important to send a message to the governor and president that we aren’t going to allow people to come into our communities and brutalize us,” Chatman said. “That goes for corrupt police officers, white supremacists and criminals. Criminals have no color. It doesn’t matter if you are a Black man, white man, Asian or Hispanic.
“If you come into our community, know we are armed.”
Many in attendance on Saturday are expected to be openly carrying firearms, which is legal. In Oklahoma, citizens age 21 or older can carry a firearm in public without a permit, and active duty military personnel or veterans age 18 or older are allowed to carry a firearm in public without a permit.
Felons, persons adjudicated with mental illness or those with domestic violence convictions are prohibited from carrying a firearm, according to Oklahoma’s Constitutional Carry Law, which went into effect in November.
Overall, four in 10 Americans say there is a firearm in their household, according to a 2017 study by Pew Research Center. Broken down by race, 24% of African Americans say they personally own a gun, compared with 36% of whites and 15% of Hispanics.
“Black folks and guns usually get a negative stereotype reaction like: ‘What is that guy doing with a gun?'” says Philip Smith, the president and founder of the National African American Gun Association. “Does law enforcement, or more importantly larger society, view Black men with firearms in a certain way? Let’s have that discussion.”
Chatman himself said he will bring his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle which he has carried openly on the streets many times before.
“I have encountered the police and observed them while holding my gun from a safe distance,” Chatman said. “I’ve been displeased with every encounter. They treat Black men with guns with condescension and sarcasm. They should engage us as they would anyone else.”
In light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, protests and rallies against racial injustice and police brutality have been ongoing across the country.
As part of the walk, the group is also demanding action on four separate issues.
The group wants District Attorney David Prater to reopen the case in the death of C.J. Pettit Jr., who was killed by a Midwest City police officer in 2015.
The group is demanding the state legislature enact laws that would hold officers accountable when they are found to be at fault in any incident of police activity.
They want officers to be required to carry their own liability insurance and they are demanding the International World Court to investigate the United States for human rights violations of its Black population.
“This is for the betterment of mankind,” says Michael Washington, an organizer for the group. “We are saying that we should have the right to wear our weapon on our shoulder and the Second Amendment is the way to do that. We have a right to protect ourselves because we are tired of this crap and the United States promoting the killing of African Americans.”
Oklahoma City Police Capt. Larry Withrow said his office was unaware of a planned demonstration, but reiterated that the group is within its rights to peacefully assemble with firearms present.
“Their rights to do that are perfectly legal,” Withrow said. “We would have people to respond in case something were to happen but would not try and stop it unless there was some illegal activity.”
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