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Monday July 4th

Guns seized during press conference for Revolutionary Black Panther Party

<p>Members of the Revolutionary&nbsp;Black Panther Party of Wilmington, NC held a rally in Wilmington on Sunday.&nbsp;Photo Courtesy of James DeAlto.</p>
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Members of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party of Wilmington, NC held a rally in Wilmington on Sunday. Photo Courtesy of James DeAlto.

The group’s Sunday conference was followed by an armed vigil which mourned the death of Brandon Smith, who was shot and killed by police in 2013.

A march was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but it was postponed and reorganized after District Attorney Ben David prohibited the group from carrying out its initial plans.

“When the assembly is convened on public property, individuals are prohibited from possessing firearms while demonstrating or picketing without advanced permission,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Party leader Alli Muhammed said at the conference he thought law enforcement aimed to stifle their freedom of expression.

“We maintain that the current statute cited by the DA and police in order to violate our constitutional, civil and human rights is a crime, and it is because we are black, and it is because we are Black Panthers,” he said. “This is in clear violation of the state and U.S. Constitution, freedom of expression and the right to bear arms.”

The Sheriff’s Department’s original role was to assist the police at the news conference, said J.J. Brewer, spokesperson for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.

“Where it crossed our lines is that they walked onto the county court house steps, making it county property,” he said.

Brewer said some protesters wore masks over the faces, violating a state law that bans masks from public marches or events.

RBPP members fully cooperated with law enforcement, he said.

“As long as nobody violates the law, everything’s okay,” Brewer said. “Once we took the weapons, they went on with their protest.”

Linda Rawley, spokesperson for the Wilmington Police Department, said police arranged law enforcement plans at the event.

“Our main goal was to make sure that no one came in and disrupted, that their First Amendment right was protected and to make sure they complied with all laws during their event,” she said.

Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County NAACP, said marching is an important part of social activism. Although the NAACP was not involved in the demonstration, Maxwell said President Donald Trump’s election has prompted increased involvement from disaffected citizens.

“(It) increases participation in the general public who are not satisfied with what has happened,” she said.

Rawley said the police department is prepared to handle future demonstrations.

“It’s not unusual for us for us to have to deal with those types of protest marches, so we won’t change anything,” she said. “We’ll continue to respond and provide security for them as we have in the past.”



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