Despite Olmos Park City Council’s decision last week to repeal an ordinance that made it illegal for people to openly carry loaded rifles and shotguns on city streets, gun-rights supporters will hold a rally this Saturday in the enclave municipality surrounded by San Antonio.
“This really was never about that ordinance,” said David Amad, vice president of Open Carry Texas. “The issue is the criminal behavior of the police themselves.”
Amad said the rally, dubbed the “Olmos Park PD Forced Education Rally,” will give participants an opportunity to exercise their rights to openly carry firearms in Olmos Park, which is located just north of downtown San Antonio.
The rally formed after Olmos Park police officers arrested Christopher “CJ” Grisham, founder and president of Open Carry Texas, on Mar. 27 for misdemeanor obstructing a roadway and interfering with the duties of a public servant, according to court records.
Olmos Park Police Chief Rene Valenciano declined to comment on how the Olmos Park Police Department plans to respond to the rally, which has attracted the interest of nearly 800 people, according to an event page hosted on Facebook.
Leslie Garza, media liaison for the Bexar County District Attorney’s office, told the Rivard Report on Monday that a felony assault case on an Olmos Park police officer against Grisham is also under review. On Tuesday, District Clerk Donna McKinney confirmed that Grisham had a court date set for the assault charge.
Amad said officers violated Grisham’s and others’ rights to openly carry rifles and shotguns, per the Texas and the United States constitutions.
“We’ve had seven incidents [of open-carry rights violations] with Olmos Park, and every time we exercise our rights they try to suppress and intimidate us,” Amad said.
Amad said that Grisham, an Army veteran from Temple, and others have been carrying out “audits” in Olmos Park since early February, whereby people openly carry rifles and shotguns on city streets to observe local law enforcement officers’ reactions. Oftentimes these encounters are recorded and posted to YouTube, including Grisham’s interaction with the Olmos Park Police Department on Mar. 27.
“The purpose of these audits is to remind government – whether local, state, or federal – that the citizens have rights and that some citizens are paying attention to whether or not the government respects those rights,” Amad said.
Some of Olmos Park’s roughly 2,400 residents have called the motives of the so-called “auditors” into question, and believe their actions are merely provocative and antagonistic.
“Any reasonable person would be concerned if they saw someone on the side of the street with an AR-15 [semi-automatic rifle],” Olmos Park resident Madison Taylor told the Rivard Report in a Friday email. “This is an intimidation tactic used by people trying to force their agenda onto others,” adding that she “[applauds] the officers for keeping us safe.”
Amad said the group understands the concerns of residents who report someone walking in public with a firearm, and that officers act “in due diligence” when they question the auditors’ motives and intentions. He maintained, however, that officers cross a line when they seek to arrest people who have not committed a crime by openly carrying a rifle or shotgun.
Jack Miller, one of the Olmos Park auditors, said there’s no other way to know how law enforcement will react to open carrying without testing them.
“Phone calls don’t do anything,” said Miller, who is a member of the Self Defense Fund, a national association dedicated to defending the use of any weapon. “We have to actually go out and engage in that conduct.”
Miller also faces charges of misdemeanor disorderly conduct for displaying a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm and criminal trespass out of Olmos Park, according to court records.
Michelle Ramos, spokeswoman for the San Antonio Police Department, told the Rivard Report on Monday that “Fusion is monitoring all information related to this event.” The Southwest Texas Fusion Center is
“a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate and respond to criminal and terrorist activity,” according to the City’s website.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Department of Public Safety did not return requests for comment by the time of publication.
On Tuesday, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told the Rivard Report that the Olmos Park Police Department had not solicited patrolling assistance from the Sheriff’s Department.
“Event organizers have been in contact with my office, to assure me that their intention is to have a peaceful gathering,” Salazar stated. “We will monitor the situation, and will have resources available, in case we are needed.”
Amad said he cannot control the actions of everyone attending Saturday’s rally, but that he will inform participants of laws regarding open carry before the rally begins.
Alamo Heights, another enclave municipality neighboring Olmos Park, currently has an ordinance similar to the one Olmos Park repealed last week. Its City Council will consider repealing that ordinance Wednesday morning.