Armed Protesters

Photo courtesy of
’9-12 March in DC-24′

If you happen to see a group of armed Tea Baggers in Virginia tomorrow, don’t be alarmed! It’s merely a group of patriots(tm) attempting to make some sort of statement against big government by carrying firearms, which symbolizes something. A coalition of militias and gun rights groups that are ticked about, amongst other things, health care reform and bailouts, are strapping on and gathering tomorrow at Gravelly Point on the Virginia side of the Potomac, the closest place to DC that they can openly carry. They aim to make history by holding the first armed protest in a national park, and are in no way attempting intimidate political opponents by brandishing weapons as they protest the “erosion of the Constitution.”  In fact, they see bearing arms as a form of mainstream political dialogue, a right granted to them by the Constitution, along with the right to peaceably assemble. Why you’d need weapons at a peaceful protest hasn’t quite been hashed out, but supposedly the group has a rationale.  But really, I’m not here to tell you about it.  I just don’t want you to freak out if you see guys with guns shouting angrily in the direction of the Capitol. They’re just fighting for our rights.

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

47 thoughts on “Armed Protesters

  1. You never know when the government will come and take all your guns away. Oh wait, no, they’ll NEVER do that. If you can’t get people with your political views elected, bring a gun to the protest. Nice logic.

  2. Kirk, I wonder how you really feel about the people protesting.

    First, why do you feel it necessary to call them “Tea Baggers?” We all know what the phrase means at this point. It is only used by Keith Olberman, Ed Schultz and the other MSNBC hosts that hate anything conservative.

    Also, anyone at the protest “brandishing” a weapon without justification will be in violation of Virginia law. Brandishing a weapon is the act of pulling it out of your holster and pointing it at someone in a threatening manner. Just keeping it in a holster on your hip is not brandishing.

    The article you linked to about the protest showed a minuscule group of people who are involved in the tea party movement. Through all of the protests around the country Thursday, there were almost no reports of violence or arrests. Unlike the next day, where a dozon SEIU protesters were arrested, including Danny Glover.

    On that note, Tom Bridge apologized Saturday for comments he tweeted on the WeLoveDC account about the SEIU. It seems it came after @KarlJohn tweeted this:

    @welovedc what is welovedc doing putting out such general, broad-stroke opinions about organized labor like for this? Uncalled for IMHO.

    Seems like you could replace “organized labor” and replace it with “tea partiers” to me.

  3. @jack, there is historical precedent for governments taking away the people’s rights to own firearms and then forcibly putting those who didn’t agree with the government into prison. I’m not predicting that this government will do that any time soon, just arguing your uninformed point.

    And I must ask, why are you using your 1st amendment rights to criticize someone else using their 2nd amendment rights?

  4. Younce, Tom apologized not for his views, but for airing them on @welovedc, where it’s not immediately obvious to whom those views belong. In this case, the person whose views are being expressed put his name AND PHOTO right on the post for everyone to see. The twitter situation is entirely irrelevant to this post.

    And yeah, Kirk… what Chris said. ;)

  5. @Younce

    I’mma be honest, I am fairly conservative and I’ve got some pretty conservative credentials. The individuals mentioned here are conservative only in the vaguest of senses. They represent an ideology that they wrap in the trappings of Burkean conservatism simply because leaders that they idolize, people like Bush and Reagan, claimed to be conservative. In the long run, however, they are only a shadow of that ideology. The very act of carrying a firearm to a protest is in contravention to a conservative understanding of the Constitution. Legally, the document grants citizens the right to carry guns weapons to rallies. It does not, however, give a group of angry people the right to overthrow the government, even if that government violates the Constitution it is beholden to. Legally, it’s the responsibility of the SCOTUS to interpret and enforce the Constitution, not the citizenry. The citizenry can enforce to an extent that they can cast votes in elections, but can only indirectly influence the interpretation of the Constitution. Carrying guns to a protest serves nothing more than to threaten revolution and intimidate those that disagree with you, both distinctly unconservative actions.

    And a statement you make is true, not all tea party types carry weapons to protests. In fact, most of them don’t. It doesn’t change that fact that all of the groups mentioned in this article are affiliated with the Tea Party, thereby making them Tea Baggers with guns. And by carrying the weapons exposed, they are flaunting them, thereby meeting the definition for “brandishing.”

  6. @kirk,
    Yes it is the duty of the Supreme Court to enforce the Constitution, but the only way that it gets to address matters is when a suit travels up through the court system to them. Therefore it requires the participation of the citizenry to disagree with some portion of the laws enough to bring the matter into the court system

  7. Look, this is your website, not mine, and obviously you have the right to post whatever you’d like. But I don’t see the logic in insulting potential readers. I’ve read your site religiously for a few months, told my friends, shared news. I think it’s a great resource. But if you’re going to turn this into yet another venue where people are crudely insulted for their political or social beliefs, then I’ll stop.

    In your adolescent chuckling, I’m not sure you realize how offensive the “tea-bagger” term is. You’re using a sex act to define a political group. How is this OK? Would someone cover the High-Heels race open with “If you happen to see cross-dressing butt-sex enthusiasts in Dupont Circle tomorrow, don’t be alarmed!” Would you welcome that sort of review on your site? I certainly hope not.

    It obviously falls within the mission of this site to cover political events. It would be silly to try to cover this city, of all cities, without mentioning politics. But do you need to go out of your way to offend people? I’m not even a part of the tea party movement and I’m offended. My advice is: Cover politics. Discuss ideas! But don’t insult people for no reason. Knock it off.

    Unrelated points:
    - Chris at #2 is right, it’s “rationale”, not “rational”, in your 4th-to-last sentence.

    - Younce at #4 is right, “brandishing” a weapon is illegal and specific, not having it on your hip. In fact, in many circumstances, Virginia REQUIRES that the weapon be visible, rather than concealed.

    - Kirk at #7, your definition of “brandishing” doesn’t seem to be anyone else’s. gives three definitions for the verb form: “to shake or wave, as a weapon; flourish” and “1. To wave or flourish (a weapon, for example) menacingly. 2. To display ostentatiously.” In none of those would wearing a pistol on your hip qualify. If it did, it would be illegal, and you could have them arrested.

    And one last thing, the Constitution doesn’t actually say what to do when the government does unconstitutional things. The Supreme Court started ruling things unconstitutional 15 years after the Constitution took effect, when Congress was obviously overstepping its bounds, but that doesn’t mean that Supreme Court Review is the only way to fight an unconstitutional act. There is also the veto (George Washington vetoed bills that he personally favored, but felt were unconstitutional), the ballot box, and ultimately revolution. How do we know that the framers thought this was a legitimate way to change a government? Because they themselves had violently rebelled against unjust authority just 13 years beforehand.

    Of course, it should go without saying that this government, even if it has slightly overstepped its bounds, is nowhere near the point where revolution would be justified. But if a dictator took power, obviously armed rebellion would be justified.

  8. Without expressing an opinion one way or the other on whether or not bringing weapons to a protest is effective or advisable… do you guys really not remember that the origin of the term “teabagger” as a way to refer to Tea Party activists was coined BY the very people advising the mailing of tea bags as a form of protest? It was first used in that way at Since that time, it’s been embraced by that movement, as evidenced by videos featured at It can’t be that offensive to said activists if they continue to use it themselves.

  9. @11, Two things. First, mailing teabags, and the term “teabagger” are different things. The first is sending tea in the most convenient packet available. The other is the practitioner of a sex act.

    Second, I can’t speak to the videos, but I don’t see any evidence for what you’re saying on the site you mention. The only uses of “teabagger” I see are in the comment sections, almost exclusively by people attacking the protesters. I don’t see how that’s possible if it has “been embraced by that movement.”

    Did I miss something? I’ll admit I just did a quick search, and used:
    That only returned three hits, none of which showed the term being embraced by the movement.

  10. @JohnofCharleston

    The very fact that most people don’t walk around with guns on their hips makes it unusual to see a person wearing one. The fact that these people are making a point of showing up at this protest with guns on their hips seems to be a pretty obvious means of display. According to the WaPo article, at least one person plans to show up with multiple weapons attached to his body along with a bandoleer of ammunition, which seems pretty ostentatious to me. It’s a matter of semantics, the point being that these people are protesting and making it obvious that they are armed while doing so. Whether you call that “brandishing” or “carrying,” they’re doing it very intentionally.

    As for to Constitutionality of Judicial review, Marbury v. Madison determined that it was at least implicit in Article III, a point which is rarely contested. Further more, John Marshall, the Chief Justice that established judicial review was intimately acquainted with the founding fathers, though he was not technically one himself. It can be assumed that he had a close understanding of the will of the founders. Much closer than you or I possess.

    As to the legitimacy of revolution, the founders operated in a very different sphere than we do today, namely, a non-constitutional sphere. You’ll recall that George Washington lead an army (at the founder’s orders, most of whom were in Congress or the Cabinet) against the Whiskey Rebellion, an armed revolt protesting excessive taxation. So, it seems that he didn’t find revolution so tasteful within the context of a representative nation.

  11. @Kirk at #13:

    I’ll admit, I didn’t click through to the article. Just the fact that the weapons are exposed and visible, as Virginia law requires, doesn’t mean that you’re brandishing them (as you argued at #7). However, having multiple weapons and a bandoleer does change the tenor significantly. It probably meets that last definition of brandishing I quoted, “To display ostentatiously.” So, point to you.

    On the constitution, I don’t see where we disagree. Judicial Review is a way to stop unconstitutional exercises of power. So’s the ballot box. So is, as the last choice in a truly unbearable situation, a rebellion. That certainly doesn’t mean every rebellion is a legitimate rise against tyranny, any more than every lawsuit is a correct challenge to constitutional authority (see: Whiskey Rebellion, Civil War, etc.). But some are (see: Revolutionary War). I find few cases in a representative nation where an armed rebellion would be justified. But there are some. For example, I think it would have been just and justified for citizens during WWII to resist internment camps, or Indians in the 19th Century to resist resettlement, by force if necessary. Both were found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but both were carried out anyway by a tyrannical executive branch.

    @Tiffany at #14:

    You go from “In a video posted on Fox Nation, a new social media opinion site run by Fox News Channel, actors playing Tea Party activists” to “embraced by the movement.” But you don’t show evidence for the jump. Yes, a year ago, some people who weren’t familiar with the term used it. They were mocked. Then they stopped using it.

    You can find a few people saying all sorts of crazy things, but to ascribe it to the movement, you have to show a bit more. A few years back, you could reliably find some people at protests carrying “Bush = Hitler” signs. Was that embraced by the Democratic, or even just the anti-war movement? Personally, I don’t think so.

    Why are you trying so hard to defend this particular term, which is offensive to many, for a movement to which (I presume) you don’t belong?

  12. Disagreeing with a form of protest is one thing and is completely acceptable. Using a website with a broad reader base to name call (Tea Baggers) and to insinuate the illigitimacy of legal protest, a pride of our country, is not. Thanks for all the great reads WELOVEDC, but I am taking this site off of my RSS and recommended reads sites. I will follow comments in case an apology and/or correction is issued.

  13. I’m sorry, I’m trying hard to defend it? What I’m trying to do is get you the heck OFF the topic. Look at the reams of verbiage you’ve left in our comments section to complain about this!

    Getting hung up on the word “teabagger” basically cedes the discussion, because instead of trying to bring the discussion back around to its merits, complaining about this word that the activists themselves routinely use just focuses on how those big bad liberals (which neither Kirk nor I are, by the way) are hurting the Tea Party-ers’ feelings.

    There’s a bunch of people walking around the area with guns on their hips shouting angrily about the government. They ought to cowboy the hell up and start talking about their ideas instead of whining about their feelings.

  14. Seth, I’m sorry you think the Internet is a place where it’s okay to express opinions right up until those opinions are different than yours.

  15. Tiffany, I never said it should be banned, just that I personally do not want to read political arguments that use name calling and childish delegitimization as a tool. If that is how this site wants to run, then so be it. I don’t need to read it. If We Love DC cares about my readership and other people who have similar principals, then they will issue an edit or apology. If they do not, then that is obviously their right.

  16. @Tiffany at 17:

    Hey, it’s your site, call people what you want. I just spoke up today to say that I like this site and I hope it can stay civil and positive. I’ve heard people I know call tea party people “teabaggers” without really realizing how offensive it is to some. Then I noticed that in addition to just using the term in a post, it’s also a content tag ( I didn’t think this was the sort of site that would crudely insult people for their political beliefs, so I said something.

    It astounds me that even after being told that it’s bothering people, you continue to defend it. “They started it.” “They use it themselves.” “It isn’t important.” So what? If we shouldn’t get hung up on whether or not it’s right to use a term some people find offensive to label another group, why use it in the first place? Why not say, “I don’t think it’s offensive, but other people do and I care more about the issues underneath, so I’ll avoid it to be polite.”

    I don’t comment often, and after this exchange, I’m reminded why. I didn’t call anyone names, didn’t ascribe motive, only guessed that based on your defense of an offensive term to describe a group, you aren’t member. (And then only because if you were, it would be more reasonable to say “We call each other teabaggers all the time!”) If I did commit some breach of etiquette, in all seriousness, please tell me how. If it’s alright to call people names, surely it should be okay to point out that this isn’t productive or polite, no?

    I was trying to help. My mistake. If this isn’t welcome (or at least constructive) feedback, then tell me, and I’ll shut up.

  17. Seth, honestly, it’s a site full of people who write about what interests them on a given day. If out of the 15+ posts that appear on our site per day, this one particular one offends you that deeply, then by all means, do what you think you need to do. If we lost sleep every time someone flounced, we’d be exhausted all the time. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last; my many years of writing content for internet audiences has taught me that there will always be people who never bother commenting except to complain about how offended they are. Readers who do not make themselves members of the community will not be missed by said community.

    John, what I’m bothered by is your engaging in the same defensiveness you’re accusing me of. At no point did I say you were unwelcome here (speaking of ascribing motive?). What I said was that getting hung up on a common vernacular term for people who choose to engage in a particular form of protest action misses the entire point and wouldn’t it be better if you gave it a rest. Grown men and women who can be trusted with firearms do not need you to defend their feelings for them; they are capable of doing that themselves.

    And in point of fact, *I* have not called anyone a teabagger, I have simply pointed out that it’s hardly the exclusive domain of the Tea Party’s opposition to use the term, and if they can get past it, maybe you could too.

  18. Lots of “common vernacular” terms are offensive in civil conversation. “Teabagger” is one of them. I’m not defending crazy guys with (apparently) a bandoleer and a rifle outside an airport. I’m defending civil discourse on a site I’ve come to like.

  19. From your commenting policy:

    But you have to be polite

    Differing points of view make for interesting conversations and opportunities to learn, but calling people names isn’t fun for anyone. It’s not fun for us because it’s not fun for anyone to be insulted. It’s not fun for you because we’re just going to delete it.


    P.S., Go Caps!

  20. Not that it should matter as readers click on ads just as often ad commenter, but I have left several comments before the ones I made on this post. What should matter is that you are offending at the least a small group of your readership.

    If you think I am an attention whore as your comment that I am a ‘flouncer’ states then you are mistaken. I just was expressing my disappointment in this posting. The same post could have been made without offending anyone while delivering the same message.

  21. And that’s a reasonable point, John. But I suppose our point of disagreement is that I just don’t find teabag-as-a-verb to be as objectionable as you do. The reason (and there IS a reason) for this is that “to teabag” is actually a reasonable coinage for the original means of protest, that just happens to have a second meaning. We haven’t stopped using the number 69, the word “commando,” or the phrase “playing the back nine” just because they’ve picked up secondary meanings of a sexual nature.

  22. Well, we’ve definitely learned from this comment thread that teabaggers are really touchy about being called teabaggers, and appear to be touchy about damn near everything. Y’all need to lighten up. And please keep your guns in Virginia and away from civilization across the river.

    Thanks :)

  23. @Tiffany at 27:

    Oh, I see what you mean. You make a fair point yourself. But none of the examples you just mentioned label people. I think we can all agree when you label people against their will, it’s a lot different than saying something is $69. If you said, “Joe ‘back-nine’ Politician, was implicated in a scandal today,” I’d probably be speaking up too. It’s different when you’re calling a person, or people, names.

    I know Tea Partiers who hate the “teabagger” term. But even ignoring that, if civil discourse on political topics is your goal, and using that term shuts down or distracts from it, then using the term is counterproductive. For example, say (former? I think?) Senator Larry Craig made news you wanted to discuss. Starting the article “Senator Larry ‘Wide-Stance’ Craig, proposed a wonderful idea to improve Washington, DC today,” would distract from the point you’re trying to make. If you’re not trying to insult people, why do so?

    @Joe at 28:

    We have? Dude, I WORK for the government, and would like to RAISE taxes to cover the spending most of us seem to want. I’m no Tea Partier. Keep up.


    Is it too much to ask to correct the post (and content-tag) to read something unoffensive, if you don’t care?

    Go Caps!

  24. Well, John… if the California Gold Rush had happened 20 years later, would it be so offensive to call them “’69-ers?” :)

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that political discourse of any sort is the goal of this site (I think Kirk’s original point was that the actual logistics of the protest were somewhat ridiculous and counter-productive, as they would have been no matter what the protest was actually ABOUT), but on the topic of civil political discourse, I actually do sincerely believe that a significant portion of the problem is that parties (small p, not necessarily Parties, political, tea, or otherwise) to the conversation are very quick to try to score points by looking for opportunities to take offense.

    It used to be that the terminology police were commonly thought to be left-on-the-spectrum people, and it was fashionable among right-on-the-spectrum people to take pride in being “politically incorrect” and not caring about such things, but it seems to have been picked up all over. And I (just me, my personal opinion) have very little patience for that because it results in a lot of finger-pointing and figuring out who can be more righteous than whom.

  25. Its not a spectrum or even political issue at all. I would be just as offended if you said “Fags are detrimental to society”, even if you backed it up saying that you meant cigarettes and not homosexuals.

  26. You misunderstand. When using a word in a derogatory manner, such as calling a homosexual a ‘fag’ or a tea partier a ‘tea bagger’, the fact that the word may have a double meaning doesn’t matter. What matters is the intended meaning. And it was clearly meant to be a degrading remark directed towards tea party activists in this post.

  27. I’m sure the entire United Kingdom, where that continues to be an uncontroversial term for cigarettes (pre-dating its use as a term for gay men, in fact!), will be sure to note your outrage on that point, Seth. You’re making my point for me.

    I wouldn’t use that term in this context, not because I think it’s wrong, but because I write in American English for an American audience. The issue isn’t one of name-calling, but one of writing clearly for the audience. If the name of the site were “We Love London,” I’d probably make a lot of different word choices.

  28. @Tiffany at 31,

    We’re not talking about a double meaning. “Teabag” has multiple meanings. As a noun it’s “a paper bag containing delicious tea.” As a verb it’s a sex act. “Teabagger” is a noun made from the verb form only. Thus, unless I missed some other meaning of “to teabag,” referring to the sex act. Thus offensive when you’re using it to call people names. Which this site’s policy seems to discourage.


    I hate to pile on, but what you said in #34 seems the opposite of what you said in #32. Which do you mean? You have me on #34, but not on #32.

    Go Caps!

  29. “to teabag” was coined, by those engaged in the behavior, to describe the act of mailing teabags to elected officials, independently of any sexual meaning. It’s everyone else’s fault that they didn’t think that carefully about it first? I mean, really.
    In fact “to [noun-used-as-verb]” is a fairly common structure in modern English. It’s why children are taught “keyboarding” skills, and why teenagers engage in “toilet papering” of houses. It didn’t take a huge leap of logic to think that “to teabag” was going to become identified with the act of mailing teabags. And, okay, maybe it was unintentional and they regret it, but they keep hearkening back to it every time they talk about it being a Tea Party. If they wanted tea bags to be forgotten, they could have called their movement ANYTHING else.

  30. Oh come on. Not every word or phrase that has “tea” in it is the same word. There are millions of “Tea Party Protesters.” They’re talking about the Boston Tea party. It’s a good image, I see why they use it. They shouldn’t have to give it up because a few of their supporters stumbled on a funny use (then immediately backed off) any more than the United Negro College Fund needs to change its name before African Americans can take offense when being slurred.

    So look, this is going to be my last post on the matter (barring a question directed at me or something). You’re calling a group names on your site and offending people by doing so. At least three people spoke up, politely, constructively, saying that it bothered them and asking you to knock it off. It’s your site, do what you want.

  31. I didn’t have enough context for number 32, I apologize. I meant if you put that line in a larger story about homosexuals. Besides the point, I agree with what you are saying and should probably just shut up and let you do the typing.

  32. Only as silly as working so hard to frame Kirk’s use of “Tea Baggers” as NOT a pejorative, but instead a simple nod towards the noble act of political protest.

    BTW, Kirk – the SCOTUS has nothing to do with “enforcing” the Constitution. It has everything to do with interpreting it. It’s not like the Constitution is vague about which branch of the Federal government is charged with “executing” the laws.

  33. Since when is brandishing firearms a noble act of protest?

    It seems to say, at least to me, “Do as we want, or we’ll use these next time!”

  34. Well said Tom; there’s nothing noble about waving guns around. It’s an act of intimidation, plain and simple. And even if that’s not how it’s consciously intended, that is its effect.

    Funny how most of the teabagger protests head in a decidedly unpleasant direction; threatening with weapons, racist and homophobic slurs, etc…

  35. I hardly believe, Joe, that the Tea Party is a modern KKK, but I do think that there are fringe elements that are distasteful finding themselves clinging to a populist movement against the actions of the new administration.

    I know several Tea Partiers who are not teabaggers, is what I’m saying.

    Well, I suppose in the literal sense, none of the Tea Partiers I know are teabaggers, but, well, y’never know, right?

    Anyhow: I support the 2nd Amendment, I support the right to bear arms, but I find their use in political protest to be a deeply troubling matter, and that is, I believe, what Kirk’s original point is. Revolution at Gunpoint is Maoist, not American.

  36. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a weapon. There is nothing wrong with protesters wearing weapons where it is legal to do so, unless they are brandishing them, making threats, etc. which the tea party protesters do not seem to be doing.

    The problem is that, generally, what I will refer to as the two separate sides view firearms in two totally different lights. See, the tea party protesters don’t see weapons as threatening by themselves. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, etc. So being around guns doesn’t make them freak out or start making wild theories about why someone would wear a weapon, etc. etc.

    The “other side” i.e. the bulk of liberals are hoplophobes. They tend not to own guns, but are terrified of them. Only criminals need guns because the police will protect you, if you’re wearing a weapon you’re looking to start trouble, etc. So you get these hoplophobes looking at tea party protesters wearing weapons and they start to freak out. Why are these crazies wearing weapons? It must be an intimidation tactic! They want to assault the White House or kill counter protesters! etc. etc.

    Sorry guys, it’s not an intimidation tactic. They aren’t wearing weapons to intimidate because they don’t see weapons as inherently threatening. They aren’t trying to intimidate the government, counter protesters, police, etc. You’ll notice the only instances of violence at the tea parties are liberals assaulting the tea party protesters, or union thugs, etc.

    Stop projecting your own intentions onto us. You guys get crazy and violent at your protests, we don’t.

  37. Threat lies in the eyes of interpreter, Doug.

    Why carry arms to rallies, of they’re not tacit threats as to what would follow?