Marching along Dowlen Road in Beaumont Saturday with rifles slung on their backs and signs in the air, dozens of Southeast Texans exercised their right to openly carry long arms. It is a right they feel is being attacked.
"The United States Constitution is being trampled," said one marcher.
Saturday's march was organized by the Beaumont chapter of Come and Take It America (CATI), an organization that fights for Second Amendment rights.
"There's a media narrative out there today that guns are bad, and that people with guns are bad, and all across the state we're showing that (that's not true)... just because you're carrying a gun doesn't mean you're a bad person," said CATI regional director Terry Holcomb.
The rally, which started with speakers addressing a crowd outside Sertinos cafe, was attended by many supporters of Derek Poe, owner of Golden Triangle Tactical inside Parkdale Mall. Poe was charged with disorderly conduct after carrying an AR-15 through the mall in December.
Under Texas law, you can openly carry rifles and shotguns, but not handguns. You cannot do so "in a manner intended to cause alarm". That's why police say Poe was charged with a crime, because people at the mall told authorities they were fearful.
"When someone does open carry, people freak out, so hopefully this will desensitize people to the aspect of seeing firearms," Poe said at Saturday's rally.
Among marchers was 91-year-old Charles Henson, one of the last surviving World War II veterans in Beaumont.
"The oath that I took said this: 'I swear to uphold and support the Constitution of the United States of America'.... that also includes the Second Amendment," said Henson.
Several mothers were also on hand, some who brought their children. Before the march began, each gun was checked to make sure it wasn't loaded for safety reasons.
Beaumont police were on hand to make sure everything went smoothly. Officers say the difference between Saturday's demonstration and the incident with Poe at Parkdale Mall is that marchers made it clear ahead of time that their intent was peaceful in nature.
Poe's rifle is still in police custody. He is fighting the charges brought against him and is scheduled to appear in court February 4.