The News & Observer

Lockdown Protesters Spotted Carrying Weapons And Rocket Launcher At Subway

By this point, it's been almost a month since we started seeing protests against lockdown and stay-at-home measures. These measures have been implemented by various state governments to reduce strain on healthcare systems that now have to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Although it's arguable that these protests are based on anxieties regarding the economic crisis that has arisen as a result of this public health crisis, it's also worth noting that many of those involved seem misinformed, both on the nature of the virus and the reason for these quarantine measures.

But while the motivations for these protests may have seemed strange at first, the actual protests themselves are starting to get unusual as well, as we've seen in the case of people exercising outside of Florida's Pinellas County Courthouse as part of an effort to get the government to reopen gyms.

But a recent protest in North Carolina has made an even more extreme impression on social media users and, apparently, local police.

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A group of about 11 people walked the streets of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina on May 9, 2020 carrying weapons.

Twitter | @vizjourno

As The News & Observer reported, what appears to be a .50 caliber machine-gun in this picture is actually a wooden replica, but the other weapons seen among the group were real and most of them were operational.

The newspaper also reported that this march was organized by a group called Blue Igloo as an "opportunity for First and Second Amendment supporters to get together."

The photos that have received the most online attention feature the group ordering at a Subway restaurant while carrying semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and other weaponry.

Twitter | @vizjourno

As CBS News reported, these photos were taken by The News & Observer journalist Travis Long, who spotted the group while taking the day off work.

As he said, "It just speaks to how strange this time is and how fractured, divisive our culture is right now. Something as simple as ordering a sandwich requires a large amount of firepower to prove a point that you're trying to make about the Constitution."

The group's march and their entry into the Subway location were streamed live on Facebook, where the group were depicted asking for permission to order and eat inside.

Twitter | @vizjourno

The News & Observer reported one of them as saying, "You guys cool with us being in here? We don’t want to make it look like we’re threatening or intimidating anyone. That’s why we ask."

They were told they were allowed to order, but would have to eat outside. Several of the protesters reportedly ate inside anyway.

Among the protesters, this man with what appears to be an AT4 rocket launcher strapped to his back was featured the most prominently across social media.

Twitter | @vizjourno

It's worth noting that this model bears tags on it suggesting that it is inert and not capable of explosive discharges.

Although North Carolina is an open-carry state, CBS News also reported that it is illegal to carry firearms at protests and political rallies there.

In response to this, Blue Igloo told the outlet that they recognize that and claimed they were "simply out for some fresh air, sunshine and exercise." They also stated that the weapons served as a "reminder that the 2nd Amendment is enumerated just like the 1st Amendment."

It is unclear, however, whether this explanation will satisfy Raleigh police, who are now investigating the group.

The News & Observer

According to The News & Observer, the issue doesn't just concern whether they were protesting with weapons or simply walking the streets with them, but also with an encounter the group had with the couple pictured across the street here.

Note that a closer picture of the couple was not selected because the couple did not wish to be identified, nor did they wish to pursue the matter further.

As the newspaper reported in a separate article, a member of the group carrying a pipe wrench approached the couple and allegedly made "intimidating comments" when asked to keep his distance.

As Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck Brown said, "The City of Raleigh Police Department will continue with its investigation, review these matters and any future events, and consult with the District Attorney to determine if criminal charges are applicable."

While Long's original photos have achieved significant notoriety on Twitter, so, too, have Photoshopped versions that replaced the group's weapons with giant sandwiches.

Twitter | @MeThatYouKnow

Speaking to The News & Observer, their creator said she made these edits to be funny, but also to highlight that "the absurdity of protesting public orders meant to protect ALL people from a virus is only matched by the absurdity of bringing giant guns into the situation. We can’t shoot the virus and make it go away, so giant subs are just as useless as their giant guns.”

h/t: The News & Observer, CBS News