• June 3, 2020

Bar protest ends in arrests - Odessa American: Business

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Bar protest ends in arrests

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Posted: Monday, May 4, 2020 8:27 pm

Armed protestors supporting a local bar owner violating the governor’s orders against opening were arrested in West Odessa Monday by law enforcement.

More than 20 people attended a local protest with assistance from Open Texas, a group that has traveled around the state with weapons, trying to help businesses that the Governor deemed “non-essential” reopen their doors.

Members of the protest coming from a rally at Anytime Fitness in Odessa showed up to Big Daddy Zane’s Bar at around 5 p.m. Monday with loaded “AR-15 type weapons” which they said they did not intend to use, but only had because it represented their Second Amendment rights. They said they carried in defense of the bar’s First Amendment rights.

Open Texas member and online personal trainer Philip Archibald, 29, was not arrested and said members of the group helped defend a hair salon owner opening in Dallas and an Ice House owner in Houston.

At around 1p.m. Friday, Archibald posted a Facebook Live while driving to Odessa saying that before attending the protest at Big Daddy Zane’s, he would be attending a rally at Anytime Fitness hosted by the owner, Clint Gillispie who previously told the Odessa American in a phone interview that the Executive Order, which prevents his business from opening is unconstitutional.

In the Facebook Live, Archibald said, “When we help businesses open up, support them. We get them some revenue and we get them back on their feet. We are only going to reopen the country by empowering people and helping them stand up and getting them back off their knees.”

He added that the unfortunate thing with the lockdown is that it, “Broke a lot of people financially and we gotta help them bounce back right now before we all become financially dependent on the government and penniless and a third-world country because we ran out of funds,” he said.

Law enforcement drove behind the bar where owner Gabrielle Ellison, 47, had told armed protestors to stand because it was not considered her business property, but was her private property behind the bar.

Multiple ECSO Deputies and Texas Troopers drove their vehicles including an Armored Personnel Carrier behind the bar and pointed guns at the armed protesters telling them to put their hand’s up.

Those who were carrying guns were handcuffed and transported to the Ector County Detention Center. ECSO Sheriff Mike Griffis said in a phone interview that six people were arrested for felony unlawfully carrying a weapon on a licensed premise, Ellison was arrested for violation of the Governor’s order and one bystander was arrested for interfering with duties of a peace officer. Eight people were arrested in total.

Archibald said that those arrested were done so illegally because protesters were arrested on private property.

Ellison said that she asked those armed protesters to stay on the private property because of a 51 percent law, which details that people cannot carry guns into Texas bars. She said that she thought that only applied to inside the bar.

Griffis said that he, “Conferred with TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission). We discussed that and they said any part of that property that is owned or adjacent to, connected to that bar is the premises and TABC is going to be fully involved in this deal also,” he said.

Ellison, the owner of Big Daddy Zane’s in Ector County, said in a phone interview earlier on Monday that her business is sinking and her employees are struggling since she’s had to close up shop. Ellison said she’s been paying her employees with no help from the paycheck protection program.

“I think some rights were taken away from us which one of them was like a right to survive. We have to survive and I think those rights were stripped from us,” she said.

Ellison said that although they are in protest of some of the restrictions placed on bars, she wanted to make it very clear that she supported the Ector County Sheriff’s Department. 

Part of Ellison’s protest has to do with the inconsistent ways businesses are allowed to reopen, she said. In Ector County, Big Daddy Zane’s is surrounded by multiple game rooms that were permitted to open while bars were to remain closed and she said it’s not just about her business, it’s about all the bars in the area.

Ellison said that before the protest when she originally asked Odessa Mayor David Turner if she could open, she was told that she could open up at 25 percent occupancy, but hours after she reopened and had employees back to work serving customers, “I get a message that pretty much said, ‘Whoops! I was corrected’.”

Ellison posted via her Facebook that she is, “doing this for ALL BARTENDERS, BAR OWNERS, CUSTOMERS, FAMILY AND FRIENDS…”

She said that she messaged the, “Open Texas” group to tell them that she owned a struggling business and that she needed help and Archibald messaged back almost immediately. The idea of the group is that, “All Businesses Are Essential” and the Dallas Morning News reported that, “Open Texas was created to oppose the government orders telling businesses to stay closed and residents to remain at home due to the coronavirus outbreak.”

Griffis said that they took eight to jail and the investigation will continue. Griffis will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Ector County Sheriff’s Office.

“I understand their side of it,” he said in a phone interview, “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.


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