Wilmington, NC - Wilmington Police Officers and New Hanover County Sheriff's Deputies responded to a meeting of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party on Sunday afternoon and disarmed the group.
According to Star News Online, the group had planned a march and were holding a news conference on the steps of the New Hanover County Courthouse. Lt. Donald Warnick of the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office led the group of Officers and Deputies, and told Black Panther Party leader Dr. Alli Muhammad that they were violating a law that does not allow weapons on courthouse property.
Black Panther Party members told Lt. Warnick that the officers needed to lower their weapons. His reply was "we're just being ready, sir."
Lt. Warnick asked Black Panther members to place their weapons on the ground, and to remove any facial coverings that they were wearing. At Dr. Muhammad's direction, eventually the Black Panther members placed their weapons on the ground and removed their facial coverings. The group numbered about 25 people.
It is against local county ordinance to display firearms and to possess concealed firearms on county property. And it is against state law to wear masks at meetings or demonstrations, according to the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office. The weapons were seized by Deputies, and consisted of two revolvers, five semi-automatic pistols and three shotguns. All guns were loaded.
New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon said that "we will not tolerate violations of the law."
Dr. Muhammad said that the group's right to bear arms, peacefully assemble, and equal protection under the law are "under siege." After the weapons were seized, Dr. Muhammad pledged legal action against the Wilmington Police Department, Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, and District Attorney Ben David. He also said that he had other firearms and would be moving part of the events to a private location, according to WWAY TV 3.
Dr. Muhammad said that he is organizing another armed march.
The actions of Lt. Warnick, the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office and the Wilmington Police Department were all justified according to policy, procedure, county ordinance and North Carolina law. They were also well-thought out in the interest of public safety. The group might also consider researching a North Carolina law that references Going Armed to the Terror of the Public. Facial coverings? Not necessary if your intent is to promote justice and peace, and not hide your identity. Also, considering the violent history of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, there's cause for concern.
What do you think about the Black Panthers and their demand to march while carrying weapons and wearing masks? We'd like to hear your thoughts. Please let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below.