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Open-carry gun group plans rally, march in Ferguson

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Oath Keepers walk West Florissant

The arrival of several members of the Oath Keepers sparks the curiosity and criticism of many protesters as they walk on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. The organization that promotes guns rights guarded businesses in downtown Ferguson business district the evening of the grand jury announcement. Photo by Laurie Skrivan,

FERGUSON • An informal group of open-carry activists plans a racially integrated armed march here Monday to demonstrate that Second Amendment rights are for everybody, its leader says.

Sam Andrews, of Eureka, who owns a gun shop, announced in August that he planned to hold the event in Ferguson. Andrews said several black residents had told him they’d probably be shot if they tried to carry weapons openly in public.

“We intend to show that this right is not just for white people,” said Andrews, who is white. He formerly was a local spokesman for Oath Keepers, whose members have appeared before in Ferguson with their rifles. Several of them showed up armed during protests in August, over the anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

County Executive Steve Stenger criticized the group for “inflaming a situation that was already inflamed.”

That’s when Andrews said he wanted to organize an integrated gun-rights march. He said he had requested permits from Ferguson City Hall, but promised that the group would gather and march with or without city approval.

Jeff Small, spokesman for Ferguson, said Thursday that city officials were aware of Andrews’ intentions and were “making an attempt to have some discussion (with him) about plans.”

The city confirmed that a permit request was under review. Andrews threatened to file suit if the city didn’t issue permits.

Paul Berry, of Bridgeton, who is considering a run as a Republican candidate for the congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat, said Wednesday that he would attend the march with several other black gun owners and openly carry a weapon.

“I’m a big believer in the Second Amendment rights, but in North County, we tend to water them down,” said Berry, 37, a bail bondsman.

Andrews said his group planned to meet at 11 a.m. Monday at the outdoor pavilion at South Florissant Road and Suburban Avenue, listen to speeches and then march three blocks north to the Ferguson Police Department.

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Tim O'Neil is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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