“Everybody’s entitled to self-preservation. I don’t care who it is,” [Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club founder Nick] Bezzel told CBS News. “I don’t advocate violence, but I do advocate self-defense.” 

In May, Bezzel and several other groups organized hundreds of Black gun owners from around the country to march in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a White mob destroyed the prosperous neighborhood of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. Although some members of the Black Greenwood community back then were armed, between 75 and 300 residents were brutally killed by the mob. 

“We can’t talk about Black self-defense without Tulsa, Oklahoma, being mentioned,” said Bezzel. 

After the murder of George Floyd, people around the world responded by taking to the streets in protest. Bezzel argues that being armed “evens the playing field.” 

“‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’ What you’re telling the police is, ‘I’m unarmed, the people around me are unarmed. You can brutalize us.’ When we go out, we’re armed. The police say, ‘It’s not worth it to engage those guys,’” he said.  

[UCLA law professor Adam] Winkler noted the Tulsa armed march was a powerful display of support for the idea that Black Americans need to defend themselves —”that they can’t rely on the White government to really protect them, or the police force.” 

But he’s concerned that too many groups are taking up arms and openly carrying them to air grievances. “[It’s] probably destructive of political debate and the kind of community that we need to move forward on the major issues that confront America,” said Winkler.

This content was originally published here.

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