When about 20 armed men showed up for a protest outside the Newport News Police Department headquarters a few weeks back, police worked to accommodate the gun rights advocates.
Police tactical officers roamed the top of the Jefferson Avenue building — just in case anything got out of hand. But police also set up a public address system for the group outside the entrance.
Police Chief Steve Drew and the event’s organizer, 20-year-old Kenneth “Mike” Dunn, exchanged beverages — a chocolate milk for Dunn and a Diet Mountain Dew for Drew — as the event kicked off. “Know this, I support your right to free speech,” Drew told Dunn as the men shook hands and clicked their plastic bottles. “I want you to uphold the Constitution,” Dunn replied. “That’s what I want you to do.” “We have to keep people safe,” Drew responded. The activists were demonstrating against a new city ordinance banning the “open carrying” of guns at city parks and city buildings, contending that the new restrictions violate the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Dunn, of Halifax County, said he requested the chocolate milk when he was arrested after carrying a handgun openly a week earlier at Huntington Park. Drew said the beverage sharing was a “de-escalation” tactic designed to defuse tensions. “I was teasing Mr. Dunn about chocolate milk and he was teasing me a little bit,” he said after the rally. “I think that’s just a gesture that we’re willing to work and talk.” Several of the men in attendance, including Dunn, carried multiple weapons, some of them semi-automatic rifles. [full article]