A Wilmington chapter of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party has announced plans to hold an “armed march” in the coastal North Carolina city on Sunday.
The announcement was made on a Facebook page belonging to a group called the Revolutionary Black Panther Party of Wilmington. A poster uploaded to the Facebook page Thursday described the march as an “armed human rights march and armed freedom ride,” and that has made some city leaders uneasy, the Wilmington Star News reports.
The city’s mayor, Bill Saffo, said he was concerned about having marchers who could be armed, but he told The Star News that he believes Sunday’s event will occur without incident.
The poster on the Facebook page also calls for justice in the killings of “Black-Africans murdered by police in America,” specifically listing Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot and killed by police in Charlotte, and Brandon Smith, a black man who was shot and killed by several police officers Oct. 13 in a wooded area of Wrightsboro, just north of Wilmington.
The group filed a special event application permit to get a street closed in the city and was told by officials additional documentation was needed, said Linda Rawley Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Wilmington Police Department.
Permits are not required for demonstrations, but a notice of intent to picket is requested, Thompson said Thursday. The intent to picket form has been sent to the Wilmington group but was not returned to the city.
People participating and affiliated with parades may not possess or have immediate access to any dangerous weapons, according to state law.
Thompson said the police will handle this event as it would any protest march. “We will take appropriate law enforcement action if necessary,” she said.
National Revolutionary Black Panther Party leader Alli Muhammad said in an interview Thursday that his group believed it had already submitted the proper forms.
The event, he said, would be a “First Amendment special event,” not a picketing event.
“We agree with any law,” he said. “We’re not spectating. We’re not picketing. We’re not parading.”
Muhammad said the national group would help its Wilmington chapter look into the law, but would be going ahead with the event Sunday.
Muhammad shared a copy of the form that was sent to the city, which stated that approximately 30 people would be participating in the event and 15 people would be event staff. The audience was estimated at 25, the form said.
On the form, the group described the event as peaceful and law-abiding.
“We have done this freedom of expression event before and throughout the country, and we are committed to maintaining the law as usual,” the form said. “This event is a lawful first amendment (and second amendment event) in accordance with the Constitution.”
Some commenters to the Facebook page, which is followed by about 275 people, have threatened retaliation if the event gets out of hand, but comments from the page’s moderator insist the march will be peaceful.
The Wilmington group’s Facebook page, which has posts dating back to Dec. 25, is also advertising a Saturday event called a “Human Rights Tribunal.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi