A Texas sheriff sent his department’s SWAT team with guns drawn to break up a rally in support of a bar owner who reopened her business in violation of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) coronavirus lockdown on Monday.
The protestors say they did nothing wrong and argue they were simply practicing their First and Second Amendment Rights, while the sheriff says the demonstrators exhibited “a show of force” in their demonstration. Eight people were arrested—six of them for unlawfully carrying a weapon on a premises licensed to sell alcohol.
What are the details?
Gabrielle Ellison owns Big Daddy Zane’s bar in West Odessa. She announced she would be reopening her doors in violation of the state’s COVID-19 lockdown, because she cannot support her family. She toldKPEJ-TV, “The possibility of losing my license—heartbreaking. But they’ve already taken my income.”
Ellison says she even called the Ector County Sheriff’s Department ahead of time to let them know there would be a peaceful protest at the bar when she reopened Monday. Ellison maintains she was told there wouldn’t be any trouble as long people were not seen carrying firearms on the property.
So Ellison made sure the demonstration took place in an area behind the bar, which she says is her private property. It was met with and shut down by force.
Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis sent in his department’s SWAT team with guns drawn. The deputies arrested eight people, including Ellison.
Six of the demonstrators were arrested on felony charges of unlawfully carrying a weapon on a licensed premises, and Sheriff Griffis says more charges could be filed.
The protest was organized by a group called Open Texas, which seeks to provide support and defend the rights of small business owners to reopen and support themselves. Phillip Archibald, who is part of Open Texas, toldKWES-TV, “We’re here to inspire the American people to stand up. Every single one of my buddies just got arrested for doing nothing wrong. All of our rifles were slinged.”
During a news conference following the incident, Griffis said he wants the state reopened, too, but his department was simply enforcing the executive order imposed by Gov. Abbott. “If you don’t like what’s going on, run for governor,” the sheriff said. “Give us something to work with here.”
Griffis noted that he had not shut down another protest held at a gym across town where people were also armed, pointing out that the demonstration was not held on a property where alcohol was sold. He said of the rally at Big Daddy Zane’s, “This was not a protest of their Second Amendment rights. It was a show of force to ensure that this lady could violate the governor’s order.”