Group Plans Armed March on Washington

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 8 2013 1:35 PM

Plans for an Armed, July 4 March on Washington Can't Possibly End Well

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A demonstrator exercises his right to openly carry a rifle during a pro-gun rally on Jan. 19, 2013 in Olympia, Wash.

Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

A group of self-proclaimed anti-tyranny activists are planning to celebrate Independence Day by marching on Washington, D.C. while carrying loaded rifles on their backs—something that would clearly break D.C.'s strict gun laws the moment they stepped foot inside the district. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, they'll most likely be stopped on the Arlington Memorial Bridge by law enforcement officers. "If you're coming here to protest government policy, great," D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said yesterday during one of her monthly appearances on local television. "If you're coming here to break law, we'll take action." She went on to lay out the most obvious outcome if organizers go through with the effort: "There’s a pretty good chance we’ll meet them on the D.C. side of the bridge." Her officers, it goes without saying, would themselves be armed, and would likely have backup from U.S. Park Police.

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Adam Kokesh, the Iraq war veteran and Internet talk-show host who is organizing the as-yet unpermitted event, is hailing it as a display of civil disobedience. He notes on his personal website that he hopes to coordinate to some extent with D.C. law enforcement so that participants have a clear picture of what will—and won't—end in their arrest, at least in theory. But the law enforcement officials tell the Washington Post that they're not going to allow the armed marchers into D.C., period. So, given that the "open carry" march's main goal is to carry loaded rifles into the nation's capital, it's hard to see how the demonstration could go off as planned.

Obviously, the protest is looking to make a wider point beyond the participants' opposition to D.C.'s strict gun laws. About 2,500 people have signed up to participate, but not everyone will be armed, according to Kokesh. Here's what he wrote about what he wants his protest to say, along with a hint about the best bet for a non-violent—yet, we're guessing, still publicity-heavy—outcome (CAPS-LOCK his; emphasis ours):

We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent. Should we meet physical resistance, we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington, & returning with the resolve that the politicians, bureaucrats, & enforcers of the federal government will not be welcome in the land of the free. There’s a remote chance that there will be violence as there has been from government before, and I think it should be clear that if anyone involved in this event is approached respectfully by agents of the state, they will submit to arrest without resisting. We are truly saying in the SUBTLEST way possible that we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

It looks like that against all signs to the contrary, Kokesh is holding out hope that he and his fellow protesters will make it into the district. He writes that he wants police to "escort us on our route," in an exception to the law, or even participate in the march itself. Again, we don't see that happening.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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