OLMOS PARK, Texas – Hundreds of gun rights activists marched through the streets of Olmos Park, protesting what they see as improper treatment of gun and civil rights activists in recent months.
Carrying flags, signs and an array of weapons, the group first gathered in San Antonio before marching into Olmos Park. They wound their way through the city before ending up at City Hall when the group tried to deliver a stack of petitions addressing various grievances.
"The next step is to see what they do," said David Amad, the vice-president of Open Carry Texas, the gun rights group that organized the march. "Do they do the right thing or do they hunker down and think this is going to blow over? Because it's not. If they do the right thing, the issue's resolved. If they don't do the right thing, then we come back and we keep coming back until they finally do the right thing."
The "Petition Against Government Abuse of Lawful Gun Owners" requests that the city drop charges against a recently arrested gun activist and "immediately cease the enforcement of abusive laws and end all other abuse of gun owners." They also demand any city employees involved in "abuse of gun owners" be banned from future government employment in Texas.
Beyond the petition being addressed to him, the mayor and city council members, Olmos Park Police Chief Rene Valenciano isn't mentioned by name in text. However, Amad said getting rid of Valenciano is "the right thing to do."
"His attitude is that this is his little pond and he's the big fish that runs it," Amad said.
Valenciano did not respond to a request for comment.
Apart from a handful of counter-protestors and some San Antonio Police officers directing traffic, there was not a large public or police presence at the march.
"We worked with other agencies to assure that today's protest proceeded without an incident and we are pleased with the outcome," read a statement from the city of Olmos Park.
Noticeably absent were any uniformed Olmos Park police officers.
The protests follow what organizers view as the Olmos Park Police Department's unfair treatment of gun and civil rights activists over the past few months, concerning, in large part, open carry laws. While state law allows for the open carry of rifles and shotguns, until last week, Olmos Park had an ordinance prohibiting the carrying of loaded shotguns or rifles on public streets, and demonstrators say activists openly carried have been mistreated.
Most recently, Open Carry Texas founder C.J. Grisham was arrested with other gun rights activists as they walked through Olmos Park with at least one AR-15-style rifle carried openly. In a video posted to YouTube, the group has a tense encounter with police that ends with Grisham in handcuffs.
Grisham was tasered and suffered an injury, according to a news release from OCT.
Just two days later, on March 29, the Olmos Park City Council voted unanimously, minus one absent member, to repeal the city's ordinance against carrying long guns.
Within a week of the Olmos Park City Council's vote, Alamo Heights and Hollywood Park both followed suit, unanimously repealing similar ordinances of their own.
Though San Antonio has its own ordinance against carrying loaded shotguns or rifles, police do not enforce it as "it directly contradicts state law," said SAPD spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Ramos.
Though it followed quickly on the heels of Grisham's high-profile arrest, the meeting's agenda had been posted beforehand with an agenda item for "possible legal challenge to City ordinance and options on how to proceed."
Amad said the rally was not about the ordinance, but rather the police department's actions.
Open Carry Texas officials said there were previous encounters between Olmos Park Police and other activists, including San Antonio-based civil rights activist Jack Miller. A March 21 statement from the city referenced "a group of individuals alleging to be gun activists have been detained and, in some situations, arrested by Olmos Park Police Officers," but did not mention Miller or anyone else by name.
Miller told KSAT he came out to test the department's adherence to state gun laws, not just the city's long gun ordinance, posting his interactions on YouTube.
Rally beginning for gun rights in Olmos ParkPosted by Garrett Brnger on Saturday, April 7, 2018