As the protests were unfolding in Little Rock and elsewhere in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, I began sending Freedom of Information Act requests to various law enforcement agencies for information. Specifically, I was hoping to locate communications and instructions regarding the state’s abysmal reaction to the protests in Little Rock, to see if–for example–anyone expressed any reservation or concern with firing tear gas and rubber bullets at people who were kneeling and posing no threat whatsoever.
Spoiler: There was no such hesitation or worry expressed by anyone involved.
Which is not to say that there was nothing interesting in the documents that I received. There certainly was, at least if you care about civil liberties and constitutional rights.
Take this scenario, for instance. Imagine you go into a gun store in Arkansas–let’s call it Wildman Arms in Benton–and you legally purchase an AR-15 and a 9mm pistol. Would you expect that gun store to then immediately provide an Arkansas State Police detective with your purchase information as well as security camera footage of you and the people you were with?
If you answered “no,” then we are on the same page. After all, Arkansas law does not require such communication between the gun shop and the police.
Yet, that is exactly what Wildman Arms did when some Black men purchased guns at their store in June.
The text message below were sent from ASP Det. William High, who received the information directly from Wildman Arms. In response to my AFOIA request for communications related to the Black Lives Matter protests, ASP sent these to me. (Curiously, these were sent unredacted, with addresses and driver’s license numbers and the rest visible. I have redacted them, however, to protect the mens’ identities.)
From what I have seen in these and other communications, the two men in the first three texts above were separate from the man in the fourth text. Meaning, you have two different encounters with Black men where the reaction of the store is “better let the state police know about this!”
I can already hear the would-be defenders of the gun store’s actions. “There was a BLM PROTEST going on at the Capitol! This is about officer safety!”
But guess what? In case you haven’t heard, protests are legal.
Guess what else? There was absolutely nothing aside from skin color that would have suggested to anyone at Wildman Arms that these men were in any way related to the protests.1
Guess what else else? Even if they were going to the protests, Arkansas has made it beyond clear that there is nothing illegal about showing up to a protest with a gun.
People can disagree about the scope and contours of the Second Amendment all day long. But, whatever the rights and protections granted by the Second Amendment are, if you do not believe that they apply equally, regardless of race, you are not some freedom-loving patriot. You’re a racist hypocrite.
It really is that simple.
Indeed, assuming that these men were going to the protests, while white gun purchasers on that day were not, says more about one’s views on race than it does about their understanding of the actual protests.↩