After he walked through the doors at an Alabama polling place Tuesday morning, open-carry activist Robert Kennedy Jr. had a choice to make: Turn around and put his loaded .357 Magnum Taurus revolver in his vehicle or get arrested.
Chatting with a sheriff's deputy in the lobby of Pelham's First Baptist Church Annex, Kennedy chose the handcuffs.
Robert Kennedy Jr. (Image source: Shelby County Sheriff's Office)
"I was not going to surrender a right to exercise a right, and they're grasping at straws to find something to arrest me for because people all over the state carried into the polls with their open-carry firearms to vote, and only in Shelby County is it an issue," Kennedy, 58, told AL.com after his release from jail Tuesday.
Kennedy, a founding member of BamaCarry, was turned away at the polls for the June primary election but wore a firearm when voting in the July runoff and wasn't arrested, AL.com reported.
Still he faces two misdemeanors after Tuesday's drama, AL.com said: voting obstruction and possession of a firearm at a demonstration, according to jail records. Kennedy's bond was set at $1,500, WBRC-TV reported.
"I knew I had not done anything wrong or violated any laws," Kennedy told AL.com. "What's he going to arrest me for? I threatened no one. I did not obstruct anyone. I did not intimidate anyone. I did not coerce anyone. I did not interfere with anyone's right to vote."
Kennedy recorded his conversation with the deputy on his cellphone, which AL.com described as "easygoing."
"I know you're BamaCarry," the unnamed deputy said to Kennedy, AL.com reported. "I know who you are. ... How do you want to do this, sir? Let's just talk for a second first."
The deputy told Kennedy he was violating state law by bringing a firearm into the polling place and gave him the option of taking it back to his vehicle, AL.com reported: "You're not allowed to carry that in to vote. ... Once you get inside here or continue to go the rest of the way, then I'll have to place you under arrest today."
Kennedy inquired about "constitutional immunity" he said the law afforded him, AL.com said: "Except for felony, breach of peace or trespass, I'm entitled to immunity when I come to vote, so you're going to jeopardize your ownself placing me under arrest? You're a constitutional officer, too."
Kennedy, in yellow long-sleeve shirt, being patted down. (Image source: AL.com)
"Well, the district attorney and the sheriff have already gone over all this," the deputy replied. "I'm sure you've had your attorneys go over all it also. I'm going to lay it like this, sir: If you want to continue to go in, you're going to be placed under arrest."
"So go ahead and go arrest me," Kennedy answered, AL.com noted.
"So you're saying you're going to do it right now? ... All right, I guess take a step that way and we'll do it," the deputy told Kennedy.
The two men are seen on video conversing in the lobby and then walking outside, both of them smiling, to the deputy's patrol vehicle.
Kennedy openly wore a holstered pistol in the First Baptist Church Annex polling place for the July 15 primary runoff, AL.com reported, adding that he spoke with law enforcement members in the parking lot after casting his ballot.
But last week the Shelby County Sheriff's Office gave notice that guns at polling places wouldn't be tolerated, according to an earlier AL.com story.
"Each polling location in Shelby County will have a 'No Firearm' sign posted at the entrance of the precinct, at the requests of the private property owner or governing body of the property," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "This will be enforced in accordance with Alabama law." A sign stating "no firearms" was posted at the First Baptist Church annex's entrance, WRBC said.
"Our goal is to allow every registered voter in Shelby County the right to vote in an influence-free environment," Sheriff Chris Curry said in the statement. "Voting is a constitutional right and it is our job to facilitate the process effectively and efficiently."
Kennedy didn't cast a ballot in the general election, AL.com reported, and is awaiting a Dec. 8 court date for the two misdemeanors.
Here's a clip of the arrest: