A former student has planned a protest that would bring rifle-slinging protesters to the National Mall this summer – which he has acknowledged will likely lead to his arrest.
Adam Kokesh, an outspoken radio host who attended the Graduate School of Political Management, said the “safe demonstration” would challenge the constitutionality of the District’s law against openly carrying arms. But he said he would not back down, even if confronted by D.C. law enforcement officers during the July 4 march.
“I think it’s an important way to assert self-ownership and assert the right to bear arms,” he said in an interview last week. “Those who are pro-gun fundamentally are afraid of the government when it comes to asserting their rights.”
The District, along with six states, prohibits openly carrying a loaded weapon of any kind. The city once had a ban on handgun ownership as well, until the Supreme Court struck down that law five years ago.
If he is arrested, Kokesh said he would bring his case to court, and added that others will submit themselves to arrest “only if they choose to.” Nearly 3,800 people have indicated on the event’s Facebook page that they will attend the march.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier said in an interview with News Channel 8 last week that the march was not an act of civil disobedience, despite Kokesh’s statements. She called it a criminal offense.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to work with them and get them to do the civil disobedience the right way,” Lanier said, adding that MPD had not made contact with Kokesh yet.
MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump declined to comment on the march, referring The Hatchet to the News Channel 8 interview.
Protesters, both armed and unarmed, will meet at the National Cemetery and walk across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue, around the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings and past the White House, according to the event’s Facebook page. At least 10,000 people must sign up before June 1 for the march to happen.
Kokesh, who said he would do away with the federal government if he could, refused to admit his political preferences in an interview.
“I try not to stand politically. I try to stand on principle,” said Kokesh, who attended graduate school at GW from spring 2007 to summer 2008. “I’m not really political as much as I am anti-political. I don’t think we should be using government to solve problems.”
He said he plans to work with D.C. law enforcement agencies and ask them to provide an escort to the procession. Kokesh said he has spoken to a number of officers outside the District who plan to join the march because they “want the population to be responsibly armed.”
“The people who don’t support that are the bad cops that you really have to worry about,” Kokesh said.
Plans for the protest came weeks after a gun control bill failed in the Senate, which the National Rifle Association had staunchly opposed.
Kokesh, who now runs the podcast “Adam vs. The Man” on his YouTube channel, was one of seven students who launched a controversial poster campaign at the University in 2007. He helped create satirical fliers that read “Hate Muslims? So do we!!!” in opposition to an upcoming conservative event, featuring activist David Horowitz, called Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.
A former U.S. Marine, Kokesh became a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War a few months before he helped organize the poster campaign. He left the University in 2008, and has been arrested multiple times for protesting.
“I found other things to do than sit through grad school,” Kokesh said. “I wanted to inspire people to recognize that they are free, beautiful, independent human beings and they should assert that.”
In 2004, Kokesh was prevented from serving a second tour in Iraq when he brought home a pistol from the war. He was demoted from sergeant to corporal, and a military panel gave him a general discharge under honorable conditions in 2007 after he appeared at an anti-war demonstration in uniform.
Kokesh disrupted former presidential candidate John McCain’s speech during the Republican National Convention in 2008 by holding a sign that read “McCain Votes Against Vets.”
He later ran for a New Mexico seat in the House of Representatives in 2010, backed by three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, but lost in the Republican primary.