Protesters showed up to a gun-rights rally in Erie, Pa., with their firearms out in the open—purposely defying a local ordinance that prohibits guns at city parks.
"We are American patriots, and we are a force to be reckoned with!" yelled Pastor George Cook of North Bangor, Pa. (350 miles away) at the Perry Square park gazebo Saturday, WSEE-TV reports.
"First, our constitution...says that the right of people to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned," said Cook. "The preemption clause in our state law...says that local towns like Erie can't make other laws concerning firearms."
Cook was one of about 80 who showed up to support "Open Carry Pennsylvania." Erie police estimated there were 15 to 20 people carrying firearms in the crowd, and they issued citations to some of them, noted the Erie Times-News.
Rally organizers tried to get an injunction against the city ordinance, but failed.
More from the Erie Times-News:
Those at the rally carrying guns, both handguns and semiautomatic rifles, are subject to a fine of between $100 and $300 and up to 90 days in prison if they fail to pay the fines.Police walked around the crowd and noted license plate numbers of parked cars in an attempt to identify people carrying weapons. They said they would mail citations to people carrying weapons who were successfully identified.
"They've been going around writing down everyone's license plate number..." said attorney Joshua Prince, a lawyer for Justin Dillon, the founder of Open Carry PA. "They said they're going to be querying the JNet [Justice Network] system to basically try and do facial recognition...and then proceed from there in issuing citations."
Prince told WSEE-TV that he hopes to defend those who brought firearms to the rally: "I filed an emergency appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that has now issued an order to the city to file an answer by June 28th, which is next Friday.
"There's all types of towns and cities that have actually dismissed their ordinances just for a simple letter from an attorney or the DA saying 'hey we're not gonna enforce it.' Why can't I get that same support here?" Dillon asked. "I'm hoping and I'm sure that the Supreme Court may probably go on our side."
As for the police writing down license plate numbers on vehicles parked near the rally, Cook described them as "Mayor [Joe] Sinnott's private Gestapo force," according to the Erie Times-News.
Some interaction between police and observers was caught on camera.
"Without any reasonable suspicion you can run license plates?" one observer asked an officer. "Is that your statement?"
When the officer didn't reply, the observer asked, "You understand the [state] Supreme Court also just recently said that your silence can be used against you."
One off-camera voice can be heard saying, "Just following orders," to which one cameraman replied, "Yeah, it didn't work at Nuremburg, either."
Other voices say, "This is what a police state looks like" and "Do they have 'SS' on them?"
Here's video of the exchange between the officers and the observers:
And here's the report from WSEE-TV: