Police seized ten weapons from members of the North Carolina Revolutionary Black Panther Party at an armed press conference late last week. Police say they took ten firearms from the group. None of the members have come forward to reclaim their arms.
Guns seized included five semi-automatic handguns, two revolvers and three shotguns. North Carolina law suspends the right to carry firearms during protests and demonstrations as well as at courthouses where the press conference took place.
The local sheriff’s department is holding the guns. People can reclaim their guns with proper identification. The group’s leaders maintain that this is a violation of their constitutional rights to free speech and the right to keep and bear arms.
Party leader Dr. Alli Muhammad stated that the district attorney and the Wilmington police chief are trying to suppress the group’s civil liberties. The group held the conference to draw attention to the shooting deaths of three African-American men by police officers.
“The DA and Wilmington Police Chief are engaging in acts designed to chill our freedom of expression,” Muhammad said, reports WBTV. “One of the basic tenants of the constitution that they are sworn to uphold.
“The DA and everyone under his directives is engaging in selective enforcement which amounts to viewpoint content discrimination,” he said. “The unconstitutional acts carried out by the Wilmington Police Department and the DA will be fought tooth and nail.”
“We maintain that the current statue cited by the DA and police in order to violate our constitutional, civil and human rights is a crime and it is because we are black and it is because we are black panthers. This is in clear violation of the state and US constitution, freedom of expression and the right to bear arms.
“We of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party are lawful and any violation against the people of this state and the United States of America and against us as the people and against you as the people or against we as the people are a crime,” he stated.
After deputies interrupted the armed vigil the group moved to a private home. Deputies also removed participants’ face masks. Local statute also prohibits wearing face masks at protests and demonstrations.
The group originally planned an armed march but changed plans after the DA’s office said they would move to block it.
“My office has received several press inquires regarding an announced march scheduled to take place in Wilmington this weekend,” said Hanover County District Attorney Ben David. “The right to gather and speak freely is a great American tradition and is enshrined in our First Amendment. The right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment. To ensure public safety, reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions are codified [by local law] which prohibits the possession of firearms under certain circumstances.”
“This statute will be enforced in this district without regard to the applicant who seeks to assemble or the viewpoints of that group. When the assembly is convened on public property, individuals are prohibited from possessing firearms while demonstrating or picketing without advanced permission. Anyone in violation of this statute will be prosecuted.”
Muhammad said that they were not protestors in an responding statement.
“We are not protestors we are not picketing, and we don’t intend on having any funerals,” Muhammad said. “So that’s not our intentions. Our actual special event,” he continued, “is a special event against terrorism and genocide.”