By Mitch Borden
Six men face weapons charges after gathering with assault rifles at Big Daddy Zane’s bar on Monday in support of the West Odessa establishment’s illegal reopening.
The Ector County Sheriff’s Department responded to the gathering and ended up arresting eight individuals, including bar owner Gabrielle Ellison, for violating Governor Greg Abbott’s current emergency order.
Six protestors were charged with having weapons in a prohibited area. One person was charged with interfering with the duties of a peace officer. Ellison was charged with violating the Governor’s emergency order, which can carry a fine up to $1000 or 180 days in jail.
Officers responded after reports that protestors had come in from across the state with firearms and were gathered near Big Daddy Zane’s. Earlier in the day, some of the same armed individuals had also been at another demonstration at an Odessa gym that tried to open a few days earlier in spite of current restrictions.
According to reporting by the Odessa American, the group helping with the protests around Odessa is called “Open Texas.” Members have been traveling around the state with weapons trying to assist business owners while they illegally reopen their establishments that have been shuttered by coronavirus restrictions. Currently, bars across Texas are not permitted to open.
Sheriff Mike Griffis told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that the individuals carrying weapons at the protest were there to intimidate anyone who’d try to stop Big Daddy Zane’s from opening.
“This was not a protest over their second amendment rights,” he said, “it was a show of force so [Ellison, the owner of the bar] could violate the Governor’s order.”
According to state law, firearms are not allowed on a bar’s premises, which includes private land adjacent to the establishment if it is owned by the same owner as the bar.