Free speech and civil war statue aficionados advocate at a city council meeting in San Antonio
Just four days after the nation saw how scores of heavily armed men hindered police seeking to preserve public order in Charlottesville, the people of San Antonio got another taste of what “open carry” laws mean for the freedom of expression.
When the city council opened debate on a proposal to relocate Confederate statues from San Antonio’s Travis Park, about 10 men showed up wearing kevlar vests and carrying assault rifles. According to the Rivard Report, a local online news site, the men were escorting Brandon Burkhart, vice president of This Is Texas Freedom Force (“committed to protecting Texas and Texas history").
In his comments, Burkhart did not conceal his intention: to personally intimidate the two council members, Roberto Treviño and William “Cruz” Shaw, both people of color, who sponsored the relocation proposal:
“I’m going to address you guys again, especially you two, Shaw and Treviño,” Burkhart said, his voice echoing through the chamber. “Do you guys see the problems that you’re causing? … Do you know the death threats that I’ve received?”
The two councilmen rejected Burkhart’s threats as "sad" and inappropriate for San Antonio, but there is no disputing that “open carry” intimidation tactics are now becoming normalized, much to the dismay of elected officials and law enforcement officials responsible for keeping the peace.
"In a new age of domestic terrorism, we need to re-examine the balance that we strike between public safety and violent protests," said Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer in the wake of violent protests that led to the death of Heather Heyer.
"First, the danger is too great of a catastrophic incident," Signer said. "Second, it is intimidating beyond any reasonable standard for citizens, particularly members of vulnerable communities."