The not-so-bright members of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party broke the law Sunday in Wilmington, NC, when they brought loaded weapons onto the steps of the New Hanover County Courthouse in blatant violation of state and local laws. They then claimed they were oppressed when New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Wilmington Police Department officers in tactical gear and armed with rifles disarmed them at gunpoint.

The Revolutionary Black Panther Party pledged legal action Sunday against local officials for their response to a planned armed march at a news conference interrupted when law enforcement officers arrived to remove their weapons.

The news conference was taking place on the steps of the New Hanover County Courthouse when members of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Wilmington Police Department arrived. New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Donald Warnick told party leader Dr. Alli Muhammad they were not allowed to have their weapons on courthouse property.

Tensions heightened when some party members noticed officers with the Wilmington Police Department, dressed in tactical gear, aiming weapons toward the group.

“Can you tell them to lower their weapons,” one of the party members asked Warnick. “They need to lower their weapons.”

Warnick responded, “We’re just being ready, sir.”

Warnick continued to ask members to put their weapons on the courthouse steps, as well as remove any facial coverings. At the direction of Muhammad, party members voluntarily put their weapons down.

Members of the party were in violation of a local county ordinance prohibiting the display of firearms and possession of concealed handguns on courthouse property, as well as a state law that prohibits wearing masks at meetings or demonstrations, according to a New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Sheriff’s deputies then picked up the weapons, two revolvers, five semi-automatic pistols and three shotguns, and began unloading them before taking them to be inventoried. All of the weapons were loaded and some had bullets in the chamber.

I’ll defend the right of any group to conduct a peaceful protest within the constraints of the law, but the Revolutionary Black Panther Party meeting in Wilmington did not even pretend to have any understanding of the applicable gun laws. Indeed, if they did understand the law, it suggests they were intentionally seeking to trigger a confrontation with law enforcement.

The group had originally planned an armed march, which is also in violation of state law.