Politics makes strange bedfellows — and so does political resistance.
Texas open carry advocates are taking a page out of the Black Panthers’ playbook as “cop watchers” follow police officers around wielding cameras — and guns.
As the Daily Beast reported, libertarian-leaning open carry advocates in Arlington, Texas, operate in a loose sort of alliance, staking out DUI checkpoints and following leads from police scanner chatter to observe the police in action and assert their legal rights.
Just as the Black Panthers patrolled 1960s Oakland openly armed, the Texas citizens often bring their guns along when they go “cop-watching.”
Sometimes, as happened last week, the Texas advocates wind up getting arrested.
Jacob Cordova said he’d pulled over to record a traffic stop and police arrested him for illegally carrying a handgun in the open.
That’s illegal under Texas law, but Cordova maintains his handgun is a “pre-1899 black powder pistol” — and thus permitted.
“It’s a pending investigation and they ended up changing charges from a fire arm charge to a ‘disrupting police business’ charge that is a class B misdemeanor,” Cordova told the Free Thought Project. “We have great evidence and I will fight it till the end.”
Video of the arrest was posted to YouTube by the open carry group’s leader, Kory Watkins, and the footage shows Cordova challenging police very openly with his displayed weapon.
Of course, it’s not the first time Cordova was arrested; as TheBlaze reported, he was arrested during a 2013 Veteran’s Day rally.
Open carry advocates may be copying Black Panther tactics, but a racial divide persists in the armed challenge to law enforcement.
Armed black groups like the Huey P. Newton Gun Club in South Dallas have risen up, challenging police much as the Arlington cop watchers do, but efforts to bring black and white open carry, anti-authority elements together have been less than successful.
"It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood." MX pic.twitter.com/9fXD51fHXf
— HueyPNewton Gun Club (@HueyGunClub) October 9, 2014
In July, when Open Carry Texas announced a planned armed walk through Houston’s majority-black Fifth Ward, they were blocked and threatened by the New Black Panthers, who told them they were not welcome in the community and that they would be matched “gun for gun.”
Open Carry Texas backed off and the walk didn’t happen.
“It was supposed to be Fifth Ward with Open Carry Texas, not Open Carry Texas in Fifth Ward,” Open Carry spokesman Tov Henderson told Vice. “We wanted to stand with African Americans and say, ‘Hey, you guys have rights—stand up and take them. Firearms make us equal to those who aggress us.”
“We saw it as a move of intimidation—we didn’t see it as people expressing their Second Amendment rights,” responded Darren X, national field marshal of the New Black Panther Party. “They have other places to do that than the black community. The black community is full of guns. We already know our rights when it comes to guns.”
United or not, the cop watchers seem resolved to continue.
Watkins posted a video message to police following Cordova’s arrest, saying, “You disobey the oath that you took and you kidnap and harass citizens who are well within their rights and this is what you get: pissed-off patriots. And it ain’t going anywhere.”
Publicly, police have stated that they don’t mind being filmed — but they wish cop watchers wouldn’t bring weapons along.
“We don’t mind them cop-watching,” Lt. Christopher Cook told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Just leave your guns in the car. Leave your guns at home.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to replace a word that some saw as controversial.
Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter