Kansas City police ordered armed antifa groups and others to remove ammunition from their weapons and from their possession at a rally Saturday morning in Washington Square Park.
The armed individuals peacefully complied. Several with the antifa groups said the action violated their rights under state law allowing them to openly carry weapons. They said they planned to fight the order but decided not to take any action at the park.
“We don’t see any merit to fight it now,” said one person who removed ammunition from a rifle under order of the police.
His face was covered, as were the faces of many at the rally just north of Crown Center, and he declined to identify himself other than to say he was a partisan from the Kansas City Revolutionary Collective, which describes itself as an “autonomous Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective.”
He and several others whose faces were covered said they were concerned about becoming the target of harassment if their identities became public.
“We disarmed ourselves in front of the police,” said another man who identified himself as a member of Serve the People in Kansas City. He said police ordered him to empty a rifle and a 9mm handgun he carried.
Others at the rally included members of the Kansas City chapter of Progressive Youth Organization.
As one person was emptying a weapon, he was advised that he hadn’t finished the job.
“You might clear that action because I think you racked another round,” an onlooker said.
Police had expected groups with opposing views to show up at the park Saturday morning, and had closed some streets.
Later Saturday morning, police required some armed anti-communist protesters to remove ammunition from their weapons and from their person, said Sgt. Kari Thompson with the Kansas City Police Department.
With all the groups, police cited a city ordinance that prohibits possession of a weapon “readily capable of lethal force,” Thompson said. She said ordinance 50-261.(a)(7) allows possession of a weapon but not along with the ammunition it uses.
“The gun and the bullet cannot be together,” Thompson said.
She added during a text exchange with The Star that the ordinance “prohibits open carry anywhere” in the city unless the individual also carries a concealed-carry permit.
“And today, a warning was given to all,” Thompson said in a text.
The ordinance says it is an unlawful use of weapons if an individual “fails to display his or her valid Missouri concealed carry endorsement issued prior to August 28, 2013, his or her valid Missouri concealed carry permit issued pursuant to RSMo 571.101 to 571.121 or his or her valid concealed carry endorsement or permit issued by another state or political subdivision of another state that is recognized by the State of Missouri upon demand of a law enforcement officer while openly carrying a firearm.”
The city ordinance is allowed under Missouri’s open carry statute, said Kevin Jamison, an attorney in Gladstone who specializes in cases involving weapons and self defense, including Second Amendment rights.
“To carry openly you have to be able to carry concealed. Welcome to my world,” Jamison said of the Kansas City ordinance.
He said the city passed the ordinance a few years ago. Though it may be legal, he said, it is a bad idea and those disarmed Saturday may well have an argument.
“I could make a case out of it for them,” Jamison said. “A lot of things are legal. Whether they’re a good idea or not is another thing.”
One question, he said, would be whether the ordinance is enforced equally.
When ACT for America held a “March Against Sharia” rally June 10 at Washington Square Park, some individuals were armed and identified themselves as Three Percent United Patriots. The group, commonly called Three Percenters, took its name from the percentage of American colonists said to have taken up arms against the British.
It is unknown whether the Three Percenters were asked to present concealed carry permits or whether they had them.
Antifa group members at the rally Saturday distanced themselves from the Three Percenters, though all claim to be interested in protecting the rights of others at such rallies.
Brendan Davison, who was not armed, attended the rally to protest fascism and racism and urged others to attend.
“If you’re anti-fascism, if you’re anti-racism, get out here,” said Davison, who said he is a member of William Jewell Young Democratic Socialists.
Saturday’s enforcement action under the ordinance grew partly from an Aug. 20 rally at the Country Club Plaza and the J.C. Nichols Fountain at Mill Creek Park. During that event, some armed individuals with the Three Percenters watched.
“After the August 20 demonstration where there were several people armed in the park, we looked further into ordinances involving openly carrying firearms,” a text from police Capt. Stacey Graves said. “This Saturday, we contacted people on both sides of the issues that were carrying firearms. Everyone was cooperative.”
Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith had written about preparations for Saturday’s rally in a blog post Friday.
“It is slated to involve numerous groups and hundreds of people from across the political and ideological spectrum. We also are prepared that some of those people will have differing viewpoints and may not get along. Our only duty will be to ensure that everyone is safe as they exercise their constitutional right to free speech,” Smith’s blog said.
“I want to be clear in stating that we never invite anyone to a demonstration or ask attendees to assist us with enforcement activities in any way.”
Washington Square Park was heavily populated Saturday by police officers, some on foot, some on horses and some riding four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles.