Armed vigilantes trying to protect Texas bar owner reopening business arrested after stand-off with police

‘We’re just here to enforce the orders set forth by the governor and enforce the law’

James Crump
Thursday 07 May 2020 14:46 BST
Officers at Big Daddy Zane’s Bar in Texas
Officers at Big Daddy Zane’s Bar in Texas ((Odessa American))

A SWAT team, using an armoured vehicle, raided a Texas bar that opened in defiance of the state’s lockdown orders.

On Monday, the team raided Big Daddy Zane’s Bar after the owner Gabrielle Ellison asked Open Texas — a group that goes around the state protesting for it to reopen — to help defend her place of business.

At least 20 protestors arrived to help Ms Ellison, and six were armed with AR-15 type weapons, according to the Odessa American.

Multiple police deputies and state troopers arrived at the bar on Monday, and aimed their guns at the protestors while telling them to stand down.

Ms Ellison was arrested for opening her bar during the lockdown, and the six armed men were also charged with possessing firearms on a licensed property.

Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis, told the outlet that he understands Ms Ellison’s argument for opening the bar, but said the armed men created a bigger problem.

“Defying the governor’s orders is one thing, but when you bring a bunch of armed vigilantes in from other parts of the state for a show of force, I just got a problem with that,” he said.

Texas governor Greg Abbott is currently enforcing social distancing measures in the state, but has started the process of reopening the economy.

Restaurants and malls reopened on 1 May, with a 25% capacity limit, and by 18 May, salons and business offices will be open with the same restrictions in place.

The state has been met with protests in recent weeks, and demonstrators have called for Texas to reopen and for social distancing measures to end.

The sheriff told Fox 24 that the raid was not intended “to violate anybody’s rights” or “take good citizen’s guns from them.”

He added: “We’re just here to enforce the orders set forth by the governor and enforce the law,” and said that the protesters were “trying to intimidate people and provoke a response.”

Ms Ellison said that she does not think the protesters should have been arrested.

“They were practising their second amendment right to protect my first amendment. They have absolutely no business in this jail right now, no business at all,” she said.

There have been a confirmed 32,332 cases of coronavirus in Texas, and upwards of 884 deaths, according to Google’s dedicated coronavirus page.

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, there are now upwards of 1.2 million people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 71,079.

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