• Police brutality against gun-carrying U.S. veteran spurs massive rally at icon of American freedom
By Mark Anderson
SAN ANTONIO, Texas—A pro-gun rally held at the historic Alamo by the new group Open Carry Texas (OCT) brought in to nearly 1,000 people October 19 in San Antonio—contradicting mainstream media claims that just 400 people attended. Under sunny skies, OCT attendees boldly wore their AR-15s and other long guns openly at this spirited rally, called “Come and Take It, San Antonio.”
Organizers did this to dramatize the fact that openly carrying a long gun is generally legal in Texas, and that police and citizens need to be reminded of it, especially in light of a San Antonio ordinance that bans a loaded rifle or shotgun of any kind, displayed or concealed, within city limits.
OCT members take strong exception with this local law and held the rally, in part, to challenge it. The rally’s success can be measured by the facts: There were no citations issued, no arrests and no ordinance violations, even though hundreds of people of all ages brought their AR-15s, shotguns and other rifles to town, wearing them openly. Some mothers had a rifle on their shoulder and a child in tow.
Although several demonstrators had loaded ammunition magazines with them, they complied with the ordinance by keeping live rounds out of the chambers of their long guns. Instead, they placed red drinking straws in the open chambers to highlight their effort to avoid any inadvertent firearm discharges.
OTC media spokeswoman Victoria Montgomery told this reporter that the mainstream media, however, neglected to mention that many pro-open-carry people not associated with OCT spontaneously joined the rally—including blacks, whites, Latinos, Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, kids and parents, and general constitutionalists, of both genders.
This ably shattered the common stereotype that only white, conservative gun “fanatics” would hold such an event.
Ms. Montgomery also shared some Alamo history with the audience, reading from the famous battle letters of slain Alamo hero Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis. The best way to remember the Alamo’s slain heroes is to celebrate Texans’ right to bear arms against potential tyranny, in the present day, she added.
San Antonio Police Department media spokesman Javier Salazar noted that the police department felt that OCT members and their followers policed themselves well. He also stressed that neither SWAT teams nor any other kind of special police units were needed.
OCT members said, however, that the welcome cooperation of police during the four-hour rally was marred by police snipers alleged to have been posted in windows above Alamo plaza. AFP asked the police to respond to this.
“Those were strictly CSI tools, [cameras] used to videotape the proceedings,” Salazar claimed, adding that all large gatherings are routinely videotaped by police, regardless of their subject matter.
PRO-GUN RIGHTS SOLDIER ARRESTED
While the “Come and Take it, San Antonio” long-gun rally October 19 was enjoyed by all without a hitch, the far-less-happy story behind the rally has been largely unreported: Open Carry Texas (OTC), which held the rally, was formed in June 2013 precisely because its founder, Army Master Sergeant Christopher “C.J.” Grisham, an active-duty soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, on March 16 was aggressively arrested on flimsy gun-related charges in Temple, Texas.
Temple is about halfway between Austin and Waco, along Interstate 35. If anybody can handle a gun it’s Grisham, who was enjoying an outing with his 15-year-old son along a rural road, though within Temple’s outer city limits, on that sunny day. They were on a 10-mile hike for the son’s Eagle Scout requirements, the father told police.
Apparently, a passer-by called the Temple police on the non-emergency line, after seeing Grisham hiking while carrying his semiautomatic AR-15 military-style civilian rifle on his chest, attached to the straps of his backpack. He also packed a concealed 45-caliber pistol he’s licensed to carry, while walking along a ditch which rattlesnakes frequent. Wild hogs and pumas also have been spotted in the vicinity; hence the need for armed protection.
But when Temple Police Officer Steve Ermis responded to the call and approached Grisham to investigate, he, evidently without warning, tried to wrestle the AR-15 away from Grisham, who stands around 5’ 5” and weighs about 165 pounds.
Officer Ermis, however, is considerably bigger at about 6’ tall, and well over 200 pounds. And as the official police dashcam footage reportedly shows, the officer pressed Grisham onto the hood of his police cruiser and pointed his police pistol into the back of Grisham’s head, which he later withdrew.
Grisham, when pressured by Ermis to put his hands behind his back so he could be handcuffed, asked Ermis if he could first be allowed to hand his personal camcorder to his son. The officers at the scene, who arrived in three vehicles, reluctantly agreed. This enabled the son to film the latter part of the encounter.
In one verbal exchange heard on the son’s video, when C.J. complains to police, “You’re not exempt from the law,” one of the officers can actually be heard replying, “Yes, we are.”
Grisham—who protested the way in which the officers at the scene treated him, took strong exception with their outlook on the law, and stood up for his gun rights—cooperated, but without compromising his principles. Yet, he was arrested for “interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties,” a Class B misdemeanor.
His son audibly cried as the arrest was made, according to the audio on their home video. But his father reassured him that everything would be fine, and one of the officers gave the boy a ride home.
Grisham’s trial ended October 18 in a mistrial. It was presided over by an allegedly biased Houston judge who was called out of retirement for the trial, while more objective judges were bypassed. According to witnesses, that visiting judge, Neal Richardson, referred to the defendant and his supporters as “local yokels” when speaking to the prosecutor in the courtroom.
Notably, the entire official police video of the arrest, though withheld from the general public and the press, was allowed in court. And Grisham’s fellow OCT members, including its media spokesperson, Victoria Montgomery, saw it.
“They put a media gag order on it,” Ms. Montgomery told this reporter, referring to the police video. Nevertheless, “The arresting officer lied on the stand”—without any apparent repercussions, as Ms. Montgomery sees it.
Given this episode, and because three OCT associates were arrested more recently near a San Antonio Starbucks for carrying their long guns, the above-noted OCT rally was organized to let San Antonio Police Chief William McManus know that his pledge to make “more arrests” of open-carriers, based on a city ordinance that forbids loaded long guns, was seen as contrary to Texas traditions.
As noted in an accompanying report below, the rally was successful and police exercised suitable respect for the participants and their rights. But the participants held the rally to prove their point about the ordinance, even while they continue supporting Grisham.
“We wanted to show McManus that you can’t make up the rules as you go along,” Ms. Montgomery said. “There’s been a huge spin put on this, like we’re a bunch of people just looking for attention—morons with guns.”
No rally permit was sought. “We don’t have to ask permission. It’s public property,” Ms. Montgomery told this newspaper, adding, however, that by about 2:30 p.m., the police corralled everyone to clear the area, even without a permit in hand to justify enforcing a particular conclusion time.
As for Grisham, his retrial in Bell County, Texas is tentatively set for November 18, in what prosecutors describe as the longest misdemeanor trial the county has ever had.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving reporter. Listen to Mark’s weekly radio show on the AMERICAN FREE PRESS RADIO NETWORK.