Sunday, January 3, 2010

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — There were plenty of handguns and rifles displayed at a tea party protest attended by several hundred people Saturday in Alamogordo, but no violence.

The demonstration against the Obama administration and its policies was staged by the Otero Tea Party Patriots and a newly formed organization: the Alamogordo Second Amendment Task Force, which conducted a simultaneous open-carry event.

“I don’t like what the Democrats are doing to our country,” said Jim Kizer, of Alamogordo, who carried a .444 Marlin and a holstered .41 Smith and Wesson Magnum. “I’m a Korean vet and I grew up in Alaska during World War II. I’ve fought Communists all my life, and now our government is being taken over by them. That’s why I’m here.”

Kizer said his weapons weren’t loaded. New Mexico law states that anyone over the age of 19 can openly carry a holstered firearm in most places.

Alamogordo Department of Public Safety officers and the New Mexico State Police conducted regular patrols through the city’s busiest intersection, where the two-hour event was held. There were no reports of arrests.

Otero Tea Party Patriots coordinator Don Omey described the protest as loud but polite.

“They didn’t get on anyone’s case,” he said. “I was proud of the way they conducted themselves — and I was glad to have the turnout. That’s what we need to turn some minds around.”

Tea Party rallies against government spending were first held around the country in April near the U.S. deadline to file income taxes. Those events, named as an homage to the Boston Tea Party, were promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington.

On Saturday, protester Leslie Feilner walked around with a holstered .454 Taurus Casull.

“It’s a bear gun. We’ve never had to use it,” said Feilner, who recently moved to Alamogordo with her husband from Alaska. “I’m a Christian and a peace-loving person, but I enjoy the right to buy and carry them.”

The couple’s English Pointer dog had a 9mm strapped to his side and a sign that read, “Bring it on, Obama.”

Ron Browne of Alamogordo, who attended the event, said the two groups have a right under the Constitution to freely assemble. But he said the presence of guns looked like the start of homegrown terrorism.

“You have the guns. Eventually, you’ll have the hate, then someone will actually take it one step further and try to hurt the president,” Browne said. “Hate has to start somewhere and grow. This is it, right here. You’re looking at it.”

Kizer, the Korean War veteran, said he only wanted to have his voice heard.

“I’m not trying to start a war,” he said. “I just want to make a point.”

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