Police Chief Under Fire For Handling Of Open Carry Protest

One of new gun control laws passed in Virginia this year allows for localities to ban the lawful carrying of firearms in government buildings and at (or near) permitted events. Several of the state’s biggest cities have already taken advantage of the new law and have imposed their own carry restrictions, which in turn has lead to a few peaceful protests by Second Amendment activists around the state.

In Newport News, police chief Steve Drew is drawing criticism from Black Lives Matter and police-reform activists for allegedly being too friendly with the organizers of a recent protest outside of the city’s police headquarters. Among Drew’s biggest secular sins is the fact that he exchanged beverages with 20-year old Kenneth “Mike” Dunn, the self-described Boogaloo Boy who set up the protest.

“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…

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.”

There’s nothing wrong with de-escalating tension, especially since the protest came off peacefully and without any arrests or unrest.

“We allowed them this space here on the good faith that I would come out and meet with them, and they would see no show of force from the police department,” Drew said.

The chief said he and Dunn “were able to sit down and talk and reason together” the morning of the protest, and they were able to respectfully come to terms on how the event would go. The police building, he said, is the best place in the city for such an event.

“They told us they would be here from about 6 to 9, and they were true to their word,” Drew said. “They said there would be no violence, no disruptions, and that’s what occurred … They didn’t have to talk to me. I appreciated that they did. I think that shows good faith, and I just wanted to reciprocate that.”

It’s hard to believe that some folks would be angry about the police chief engaging in actual dialogue, but here we are. Local activist Aubrey “JaPharii” Jones, Jr. says the Black Lives Matter 757 group that he leads wasn’t treated this way when they protested Donald Trump’s campaign appearance in the Newport News area earlier this fall, and a host of other voices on the Left have chimed in to decry what they perceive to be favorable treatment on the part of the chief.

A progressive social media-focused news outlet called NowThis, with 2.7 million Twitter followers, posted footage of the beverage exchange, with the video watched some 427,000 times as of Friday. “This police officer offered help to an alt-right ‘Boogaloo’ member even though he was openly defying Virginia’s open carry law,” the post says, referring to the Boogaloo Bois.

The problem is that Dunn and the others who were openly carrying weren’t actually breaking the law at all. As Chief Drew points out, the new ordinance barring lawful carry on government property in Newport News applies to the interior of government buildings, but not the outside spaces, including parking lots. In other words, he didn’t make any arrests because there was no cause. That hasn’t been the case at every protest in the city, including the Black Lives Matter protest of Trump’s appearance.

“If you go back and look at the footage … we’ve marched with children down the sidewalk and with churches that have come and marched up and down Jefferson Avenue,” he said. He and an assistant chief even “took a knee” at one protest.

Drew said police have accommodated marchers, including by blocking traffic in one lane and keeping traffic moving in others. But, the chief said, “actions must be taken if lives are endangered.”

Drew said that was the case after the Trump rally, where he said protesters were “walking into oncoming traffic,” requiring police to step in. Some protesters were detained, he said, but later released without charges.

“We just can’t have that,” he said. “Somebody would have got hurt and the narrative would be that the police department allowed somebody to get hurt and why didn’t they stop this.”

The real issue here isn’t the behavior of Chief Drew or the Second Amendment supporters who protested outside the police station. Rather, it’s the people who are oblivious to the local laws who are raising a stink. Ironically, many of the folks chastising Drew for not making arrests are the same ones protesting over-policing in the first place. Rather than come across as principled activists upset about the heavy-hand of law enforcement, they’re letting their pure partisanship shine through; demanding consequences when no laws were actually broken and complaining about a lack of arrests for peaceful protests.