In May of this year I wrote a blog post about protesters and demonstrators carrying firearms at their events. In the months since that post, a variation of that conduct has begun happening more frequently: armed militias showing up at other groups’ events, either as supporters or as opponents. The recent events in Kenosha have brought renewed media attention to this issue, but incidents involving armed militias have occurred all across the country this summer (see a few examples here, here, here, and here).
Lately I’ve been asked if these types of private militias are legal in North Carolina, and if so, whether they are permitted to “deploy” to protests as participants or security? This post provides a summary of the relevant statutes and the criminal offenses that may apply.
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Over the past couple weeks, North Carolina has joined the growing list of states in which armed demonstrators have gathered to express their opposition to virus-related restrictions on economic activity and social gatherings, or to more generally express their opposition to any restrictions on their Second Amendment rights. Dressed in patriotic or military-style gear, and armed with a variety of openly displayed handguns, rifles, or even an (inert) AT-4 anti-tank weapon, these groups have processed along city streets and sidewalks or gathered in public locations like a historic cemetery and a downtown restaurant.
Now, particularly in light of an incident over the weekend where two local attorneys walking with their children felt threatened by a demonstrator wielding a large pipe wrench, a lot of people are asking the same question: are these armed demonstrations legal?
The question seems simple. The answer is more complicated.
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Protests are breaking out all over. This weekend, protesters gathered at RDU to oppose President Trump’s travel ban. Last weekend, participants in Women’s Marches took to the streets of Washington and Raleigh. This post considers the criminal law issues that most often arise during protests. Continue reading →