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Is this illegal? Activists say armed militia is trying to intimidate Black Lives Matter supporters
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Is this illegal? Activists say armed militia is trying to intimidate Black Lives Matter supporters

(Screen grab of the video posted by @amandajean333 on Twitter)

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS – Concerned citizens say they’re upset at seeing an armed militia during two dueling rallies outside of the Cottonwood Heights Police Department.  The question is, were any laws actually broken?  Police say, no.

The video shows five people in a truck, two in the cab, three in the bed, all wearing masks and vests with rifles in the bed of the truck.  The woman recording the video points out the truck’s license plate was missing, possibly removed.  She also points attention to the two-way radio chatter where you can hear people describing an “instigator” from the “downtown incident.”

(Warning: profanity)

She asks the armed militia members why they were there when the Black Lives Matter supporters had left Cottonwood Heights City Hall, going away from the pro-police crowd. 

“Why are you here when we came away from you guys to peaceably protest?” she asks.  “So, you’re here to try and intimidate these people, is that it?”

The men in the truck simply respond, “Have a good day, ma’am.”

Was their presence there illegal?  Police on the scene say no one, in either of the dueling rallies, were breaking the rules.

“All of them, everyone, was exercising their constitutional right.  They were all within the law,” says Cottonwood Heights Police Lieutenant Dan Bartlett.  “We took the stance of, ‘If the law’s not being broken, no one is being assaulted and those firearms aren’t being pointed at anybody, we’re going to let them do their thing.’”

Bartlett says many people had a lot of questions about what was permitted and what wasn’t before the rallies began.  They handed out fliers to people letting them know how to protest without breaking the law.  For instance, as long as they weren’t blocking traffic or threatening people, protesters were able to go about their business.

As for the weapons, Bartlett says simply possessing a weapon is not illegal, even on school grounds.  Plus, he says there were members of the other group who also were armed.

“There were armed people on both sides of the street and we had some citizens that expressed some concerns over that, but, we didn’t observe any laws being broken.  They weren’t pointing their firearms and they’re within their constitutional right to have those firearms,” Bartlett says.

As far as the license plate is concerned, Bartlett says he saw the truck, himself, and could see they were complying with the law.

“I said, ‘There’s a temporary license plate in the back window.  I can see it, right there.”

Even if there wasn’t any violence or criminal activity during the rallies in Cottonwood Heights, Bartlett says it’s possible for groups to go too far in the name of “protecting the community.”  He says if a concerned citizen sees someone committing a crime, it’s not the responsibility of that citizen to take any action.  If you see something, Bartlett says you need to call the police.