Ohio Pink Pistols Threatened by Club-Wielding "Official", Ordered to Surrender Firearms
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Initially three, then later, four members of the Central Ohio Pink Pistols, a group promoting the safe handling of firearms in the GLBT community, were threatened by the Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus, who wielded a 2-foot club, and up to 30 volunteer security personnel at the Stonewall Columbus Pride Event on Saturday, June 26. The Pink Pistols were repeatedly ordered to surrender their legally-owned and carried firearms by a steadily-growing army of guards. Knowing the law was on their side, the Pink Pistols refused to surrender their property or knuckle under to illegal threats of violence, search, and seizure by Stonewall Columbus personnel. Police were summoned at Pink Pistols request. No firearms were surrendered or confiscated, and no arrests were made, as no laws were broken.
June 28, 2004 (PP NATIONAL) Columbus, OH: On Saturday, June 26, about five members of the Central Ohio Pink Pistols (COPP) attended the Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade and Festival at Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus. The Pink Pistols had planned upon marching behind the BRAVER contingent, but were invited to march with BRAVER, the Buckeye Region American Veterans for Equal Rights. They assisted in the carrying of the huge 20' x 30' American flag at the front of the group as part of the flag?s honor guard. Several of the Pink Pistols members carried unloaded firearms openly, which is legal according to the Ohio Constitution.
Exactly two days prior to the event, Kim Rife of the Central Ohio Pink Pistols had received this email from Kate Anderson of Stonewall Columbus, prompted by leaked internal communications sent to her by unknown persons. (Spelling & syntax errors have been included.)
Ms. Rife seriously doubts the veracity of the statement that says: "I appreciate your group but..." and will be drafting a letter later in the week asking Anderson expand upon this statement. "I think this was simply an attempt to placate us; I think she appreciates our group about as much as she appreciates her belly button lint."
Ms. Rife forwarded this email to Pink Pistols National Media Spokesperson Gwen Patton, who sent it to Daniel McCaughan, Pink Pistols House Counsel. She also discussed the email with another firearm law attorney friendly with the organization. Both attorneys assured the Pink Pistols that the threats described in the email were spurious, and could not be acted upon, legally. A private citizen cannot legally confiscate the property of another, and certainly cannot refuse to return it. Such an act constitutes theft. To steal a firearm is a particularly serious offense, one with Federal consequences. The event staff could also not search persons not openly displaying firearms without their permission. To do so would constitute assault.
The parade itself was without incident. But trouble occurred while three of the Pink Pistols were having lunch at the festival site afterwards. According to sources, about halfway through lunch, the first two staff persons, one bearing a 2-foot long, inch-thick truncheon (which she referred to dubiously as a "keychain", by virtue of the split keyring and key at one end), accosted the group with the statement: "I thought I told YOU PEOPLE not to bring firearms in here?" The person in question was assumed from context to be Kate Anderson herself, since she did not identify herself, but seemed to be referring to the email.
The Pink Pistols did not respond. Then she said, "I'm going to confiscate those firearms, turn them over to me right now!"
The Pink Pistols responded that they would do no such thing. Ms. Anderson repeated that they must turn over their weapons, and they would get them back after the event.
The responses she received were variations on "no, we do NOT have to surrender the firearms to you, and no, we're not going to leave either, because we are part of the gay and lesbian community, AND it's legal to open carry in the state of Ohio and we have the law on our side, and you don't. We'll just continue sitting here, enjoying the day."
Ms. Anderson retreated briefly and returned with 10 security guards. She again insisted they surrender their firearms. Still, the Pink Pistols refused. More guards were called, until approximately 30 security guards surrounded the three Pink Pistols. Ms. Anderson at this time brandished her truncheon and demanded once again that the Pink Pistols either turn over their firearms or she would take them, but the Pink Pistols once again refused.
Kim Rife recalls: "I have a sense about these things, and I think her 'plan' was to 'subdue' us. So I started informing her that if they so much as TOUCHED us, and confiscated our firearms they'd be guilty of a third degree felony, robbery, assault and anything else our lawyer could come up with." Ms. Anderson said she should call the police, and Ms. Rife and Ms. Lee said that would be a good idea, and suggested she do so.
Mr. Jones, another marcher and member of COPP, recalls the reaction of Ms. Anderson. "At this point she is obviously taken aback, as it was apparent that she had planed to use force."
One of their members called the attorney for Ohioans For Concealed Carry, who was on call for their support, to double-check their legal position. This additional attorney corroborated the legality of the Pink Pistols' actions, and was informed the police were on their way. During this entire exchange, the Pink Pistols remained calm, ate their lunches, and chatted amongst themselves.
According to Sergeant Mull of the Columbus Police Department's Public Information Unit, police were dispatched at 2:56 pm on a possible charge of trespassing. Firearms were mentioned, but also that the weapons were holstered and legally carried.
When the police arrived, they were polite and professional, for which the Pink Pistols applaud them. The Columbus Police Department entered the situation with a spirit of negotiation and respect for the law and the rights of everyone, for which they should be commended. The intricate nature of the new concealed-carry law was discussed at length, including where the law permitted a firearm owner to carry a weapon, whether a licensee could carry on government property, and whether a parade permit afforded "private property" control to the permit holder. Eventually, after running the chain of police command, a call to the City Prosecutor was made, and the point was still ambiguous. But the Prosecutor felt strongly enough that the police could at least make arrests to clear the scene if necessary, so the Pink Pistols were asked to compromise and depart at that time.
The Pink Pistols respected the treatment from the Columbus Police Department, and the attention paid to their civil rights, and felt that due process had been adequately served, so they were accompanied to the edge of the event site by two CPD officers, with whom they amiably chatted as they walked. "The police were probably the coolest part...well, and carrying the flag and our firearms," said Ms. Rife. The police cleared the incident "code 4", without filing statements, at 4:04 pm. Since no arrests were made, there was no further report necessary.
"Pink Pistols National is appalled and disgusted at the actions of Stonewall Columbus, first for making such clearly illegal and downright totalitarian threats, and then for engaging in acts of bullying, intimidation, and flagrantly terroristic bashing to forward their political ideas and goals. The law in Ohio now permits the carrying of firearms for self-defense, and some of the persons who carry them will be GLBT. Stonewall needs to get used to this idea," says Patton. Ohio has been the fastest-growing state in Pink Pistols membership, boasting a full five chapters, more than any other state in the nation. Patton continues, "Stonewall Columbus has no evidence to assume that lawful firearm owners in general, or Pink Pistols in particular, will contribute in any way to disorder or violence of any sort. It is an insult to all lawful firearm owners, and Ms. Anderson's actions are a clear statement of what kind of tactics take over when law abiding citizens hand over their defense to others. Her plan was simple and disgusting: Keep adding guards until our people surrendered from fear and intimidation. Well, it didn't work. We weren't afraid."
Kim Rife adds, "I find it amazing that I and my members are the ones perceived as violent, given that I was sent an e-mail by Ms. Kate Anderson from Stonewall Union, that threatened US. Grand theft, a third degree felony, assault and possibly aggravated assault as she had a 2' staff that she was wielding. But we had 'evil' guns that never left their holsters. Only two of us at that time were openly carrying -- I was one -- but mine was a soft air gun and the other had NO ammunition and no magazine! We thought this a reasonable compromise to Ms. Anderson's demands of NOT exercising our constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and the right to carry. I mean, if flag burning is political speech, and I believe it is, then so is carrying a firearm, doubly so if you are an out lesbian."
Does a woman holding a two-foot truncheon, surrounded by thirty bullies in Security t-shirts, have the right to intimidate a handful of peaceful event attendees, regardless of how you feel about their politics? "Ms. Anderson clearly felt that she had the same mandate as a first-grade teacher confiscating squirt-guns from unruly kids," said Patton. "She felt utterly justified in robbing fellow queers of their legal and civil rights, even by force, simply because she does not agree with the form that right takes. There is a word for that. It is called tyranny."
Kim Rife interjects, "I've always been under the impression that Stonewall Union is there to protect the rights of GLBT people, but Kate Anderson trampled on them. I think the folks at Stonewall should seriously consider that she has violated several portions of their 'stated purpose' and suggest that she find alternative outlets for her desire for activism, preferably one that involves as little interaction with people and the law as is possible."
The Pink Pistols is the largest national Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender organization dedicated to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community.
Ohio Pink Pistols
Columbus Police Department