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Members of Revolutionary Black Panthers Party have yet to claim seized weapons

Published: Jan. 29, 2017 at 8:48 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 at 6:08 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Ten weapons were seized at the Revolutionary Black Panther Party press conference Sunday morning.

Members of the RBPP held a press conference Sunday to go over their plans for the events scheduled the rest of the day. Those events include a tribunal at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday followed by an armed vigil at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

It was announced at the press conference the group had made the decision to hold an armed vigil instead of the armed march which they had been planning all week. The decision came after New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David issued a statement Thursday in response to the planned "armed march."

In the party's response to David's statement, party leader Dr. Alli Muhammad stated they believe the district attorney and the Wilmington police chief are engaging in acts designed to suppress their freedom of expression.

"The DA and Wilmington Police Chief are engaging in acts designed to chill our freedom of expression," Muhammad said. "One of the basic tenants of the constitution that they are sworn to uphold. The DA and everyone under his directives is engaging in selective enforcement which amounts to viewpoint content discrimination. The unconstitutional acts carried out by the Wilmington Police Department and the DA will be fought tooth and nail."

Muhammad then said that N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-415.23 states, "Any person adversely affected by any ordinance or rule that lawfully regulates the possession of a firearm is allowed to bring sue."

"We maintain that the current statue 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. This is in clear violation of the state and US constitution,  freedom of expression and the right to bear arms. We of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party are lawful and any violation against the people of this state and the United States of America and against us as the people and against you as the people or against we as the people are a crime."

Near the end of the press conference, the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office was brought in to address the gathering due to its location on county property at the courthouse and to seize the party's weapons.

According to Lieutenant J.J. Brewer, a spokesperson with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, members of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party were in violation of local county ordinance section 38-31 by possession of a weapon. The ordinance states "The Display of Firearms and Possession of Concealed Handguns Prohibited on this Property."

Brewer added that deputies also had members at the press conference who were wearing masks, lower their masks due to North Carolina state law prohibiting the wearing of masks at meetings or demonstrations.

According to Brewer, the deputies seized 10 weapons. Of the weapons seized by the sheriff's office, there were two revolvers, five semi-automatic pistols, and three shotguns. All of them were loaded.

The guns are being safe kept and that members of the party can pick them up at the Sheriff's Office with identification. Brewer said all guns had serial numbers.

With their weapons seized, leaders and their members continued their message at a private home. Many were armed while they spoke at the home. They talked about the deaths of black men in North Carolina that was caused by police brutality.

Supporters came out because they said they believe in equal rights and justice for those misrepresented.

"When the police look at different nationalities they automatically think the worst. There is no due process for people of color and it should not be that way. We are all Americans," said Michelle Newsome.

"We will not tolerate violations of the law," McMahon stated.

The Sheriff's Office brought in 26 extra deputies that were all in overtime status, around $8200 dollars in overtime pay.

"It's a balancing act but from my experience I would rather be over prepared than under prepared for something like this," McMahon said

Those SWAT Teams, dozens of extra deputies, are all resources that eventually trickle down to the taxpayer says McMahon, but they are dollars well spent.

"I don't see any way around that. If something happened and you didn't have the proper amount of law enforcement now you aren't protecting your community and keeping them safe," McMahon stated.

The Sheriff and his Chief Deputy were in the Emergency Command Center on standby during the weekend events.

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