By Mitch Borden
Over 100 armed protesters gathered at Big Daddy Zane’s, a bar in the unincorporated community of West Odessa, to challenge the arrests of six armed protestors made by the Ector County Sheriff’s Department in early May. The demonstration was organized by the gun rights advocacy group Open Carry Texas.
The arrested individuals participated in a separate demonstration held on May 4 that supported the West Odessa bar’s illegal reopening in defiance of Gov. Abbott’s coronavirus emergency orders. While the sheriff’s department says six men broke the law by standing outside of the bar while carrying firearms, activists say the arrests were illegal.
The conflict between the sheriff’s office and the protestors comes down contradicting interpretations of the legal definition of “premises.” According to the Texas Penal Code, it is illegal to carry a handgun into a bar.
But when Sheriff Griffis arrested the six-armed demonstrators for carrying weapons on private property adjacent to Big Daddy Zane’s, he cited the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s definition of “premises.” The TABC definition considers the property a bar sits on and all surrounding property owned by the bar’s owner as the “premises.” However, demonstrators say the sheriff’s interpretation of the TABC code doesn’t apply to criminal conduct.
At the Open Carry protest on Saturday, armed men and women came from far-flung places like Fort Worth and Kerrville to protest the arrests from early May. Demonstrators hoisted flags that read “Don’t Tread On Me” and “Come And Take It.”
Protestors gathered in the parking lot of Big Daddy Zane’s, but the sheriff’s department never showed up. To attendees, that signaled that the original arrests were unjustified.
David Ahmad, the vice president of Open Carry Texas told reporters he had been in contact with the sheriff.
“Based on what’s gone on in the last month, I’m 100% confident that he’s realized the error of his ways,” Ahmad said. “I don’t want him to resign, but I do want him to stand up like a man and admit he was wrong.”
After demonstrating outside of Big Daddy Zane’s for several hours, the protestors made their way to the Ector County Sheriff’s Department and posed for a photo in the parking lot.