Earlier this month in Michigan, two men wanted to prove a point about civil liberties, so they walked into a police station wearing tactical vests and masks and carrying – what police later recovered – four guns, including a loaded AP-14 firearm and Glock 19 handgun.
The entire stunt was captured on video and streamed on Facebook Live.
Police had stopped James Craig Baker and Brandon Brent Vreeland earlier that day after someone made a report of two suspicious men in a car wearing tactical masks. They left the area before police arrived, but were stopped by an officer on patrol shorty after.
Unhappy with being “illegally pulled over” and “a little afraid for our lives” as one of them said, the two decided to go to the Dearborn police station and file a complaint.
But with a gun around one of their necks, and both dressed in tactical masks and vests, their entrance to the police station was not a warm welcome.
Police immediately issued commands. “Put it on the ground or you are dead,” you can hear one of them say in the video.
In response, one of the men declared, “It’s all legal, sir.”
Exercising your rights is not black and white
Michigan is an open carry state, meaning licensed gun owners may carry a firearm in public so long as it is not concealed.
But the duo’s stunt to prove a point about exercising their rights backfired. The men were arrested and charged with several misdemeanors, including breach of peace and masks/disguises while parading.
They were criticized by local open carry rights gun group, Michigan Open Carry Inc., who said it “in no way supports the actions of these individuals.”
The president of the group added, “Like it or not, exercising your rights is not black and white. How you act and portray yourself is a big part of advocacy. I believe these gentlemen failed in this regard.”
How to advocate (and not get arrested)
We’ve seen protests and marches on both sides of every argument. You should know that anyone could potentially get caught up on the wrong side of the law.
What these men wanted to achieve was advocacy and what they ended up with was an arrest on their records. If you decide to exercise your rights or advocate for an issue, understand the following:
Holding a peaceful protest is an exercise of the freedom of speech, but if causes disruption, police may be able to intervene. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Check your local permit ordinance before holding any march, rally or protest. Regulations vary depending on where you want to hold the event.
Carry current identification. If you don’t, you could be arrested for a minor offense instead of getting a ticket.
Familiarize yourself with these 3 things to know if you get arrested
Don’t play lawyer with the police. If you have a discrepancy with an officer, it should be handled in court, not at a traffic stop or anywhere else you’re being questioned.
If demonstrating, wear sensible clothing. As we can learn from the above story.
“Stay calm, be polite, and don’t run," as the ACLU advices.
Civil liberties are those personal freedoms the government or law enforcement cannot abridge.
However, how you exercise those rights means the difference between making a point or getting arrested. Learn from stories like this one; how you portray yourself means everything. Use your common sense.