Two sign-toting gun rights advocates were arrested near the State House on Monday night for ignoring officers’ orders to move off a public sidewalk.
The men belong to The Patriot Picket, an organization that frequently protests Maryland gun laws at the corner of College Avenue and Blagden Street, where they will be seen by lawmakers arriving in Annapolis.
While being handcuffed and searched by Department of General Services Police officers, the protesters complained to reporters that their First Amendment rights were being violated. One of the officers said the men had repeatedly denied a lawful order to move off the sidewalk.
The incident occurred just steps from Lawyers Mall, where groups routinely gather for rallies and protests. Numerous lawmakers scurried past the ruckus without stopping, though one, Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick) did pause to inquire what was happening. Hough later expressed his dismay with the arrests on the Senate floor.
As one of the arrested men was being placed in a police car, he told Maryland Matters, “Suddenly there’s been a political change. I suspect that somebody in the corner office in the Senate office building doesn’t like the messages on our signs,” an apparent reference to Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert), the chamber’s presiding officer.
Miller denied any knowledge of or involvement in the arrests, telling reporters, “I don’t know a thing about it, honestly and truly.”
“I walk by their signs, I talk to them. They like me,” Miller said. “They know I’m a gun owner. We relate well together.”
One of the signs being carried on Monday night read, “Dems deny your right to self defense.” Another said: “Md. murders: Gangs – 1000s, Bump Stock – 0.”
“We’re big on concealed carry,” group member Kyle Norman said. “We’d like for everyone in Maryland to be able to defend themselves.”