Video: Armed counter-protesters use pepper spray, assault Texas officers outside of drag show
“Do not reach for that gun,” says one Fort Worth officer in the video, which shows the clash between officers and protestors with firearms and body armor
By James Hartley
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
FORT WORTH, Texas — The three arrests of counter-protesters outside a Fort Worth drag show started when one of them crossed the street and pepper-sprayed members of the anti-LGBT organization Protect Texas Kids, a group that says it wants to protect children from drag shows, according to a news release from police.
The three people arrested were members of the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club, an organization that describes itself as protecting communities and marginalized groups. Police said that officers saw one of the gun club’s members, 20-year-old Samuel Fowlkes, walk across the street and pepper-spray members of Protect Texas Kids.
The incident happened Sunday afternoon when a group with Protect Texas Kids showed up across the street from a drag brunch at Fort Brewery and Pizza to protest with signs. Members of the John Brown Gun Club, who frequently also show up to drag shows where there are protests and say they are there to protect the participants and attendees of the shows, stood in front of the brewery.
Surveillance-camera footage released Monday evening by police showed three men with the gun club walk up to a group of five protesters with Protect Texas Kids across the street from the venue and appear to argue with them before one person, identified as Fowlkes by police, pulled something from his belt and sprayed what authorities said was pepper spray at some of the protesters.
Video shows two more John Brown Gun Club members cross the street while armed with rifles after the pepper spraying, as Fowlkes walked away.
Most of the John Brown Gun Club members were wearing body armor and helmets and some were carrying weapons. The Protect Texas Kids protesters did not appear to be armed in the video.
Officers were monitoring the protest via the city surveillance camera and went to the scene after seeing the pepper spray, police said in their statement Monday. Officers attempted to arrest Fowlkes on suspicion of assault and he tried to resist arrest, swinging his fists at them, according to police.
As officers were trying to cuff Fowlkes, another member of the John Brown Gun Club, identified as 33-year-old Christopher Guillott, tried to stop them by attacking officers with an umbrella, according to police. He struck one of the officers in the face, police said.
Body-camera footage showed officers approach Fowlkes and ask him to go with them following the pepper-spray incident. Fowlkes replied, “No,” and started to walk away. Another man appeared to try to block one officer from following Fowlkes.
Police followed Fowlkes and when they began trying to arrest him, the man they identified as Guillott swung an open umbrella at the officers, appearing to hit one in the face, the video shows. Police then began working to detain him as well. Both Guillott and Fowlkes appear to resist officers in the video.
At one point, while body-worn camera video does not show anything because of obstructions as officers fought to cuff the men, one officer tells one of the men not to reach for a gun and warns him he will be shot if he reaches for it. A handgun on one of the men’s person is later seen in the video as one officer instructs another to retrieve the firearm.
At this point, it is not clear if it is Fowlkes or Guillot in the video.
As police continued working to arrest Fowlkes and Guillot, officers with the police department’s Directed Response Team were called to the scene. Officers on the scene tried to direct other members of the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club to back away, according to the news release.
After police arrested the two men, surveillance and body-camera footage shows a third person, identified by police as 37-year-old Meghan Grant, running toward police. In the body-camera footage, police tell her to stay back as Grant runs toward a line of officers.
“What does he need a medic for?” Grant can be heard yelling as she approaches police.
Officers told Grant to stay back, then pushed her away from them before she continued to try to break through their line, repeatedly asking why one of the men needs a medic, according to the video released by police. She is then arrested.
The three people arrested are facing the following charges:
- Fowlkes: Four counts of assault causing bodily injury; one count of evading arrest or detention; one count of resisting arrest; one count of assaulting a peace officer
- Guillott: Interference with public duties; assaulting a peace officer
- Grant: interfering with public duties; resisting arrest
Police have on Twitter been accused of wrongfully arresting the three John Brown Gun Club members and showing poor muzzle discipline. Police said officers who responded to the scene with long rifles did so for protection because the counter-protesters were armed and it appeared there could be a conflict. They said officers were careful about where they pointed their guns and that their fingers were not on the triggers.
The police department said it respects the rights of people to free speech and peaceful assembly but will arrest anybody who breaks the law.
“Our main goal during any protest event is to provide a safe environment that respects all participants’ constitutional rights, while effectively maintaining public peace and order,” police said in the news release. “However, those who choose to violate the law and assault others will be arrested and charged.”
Members of the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club have been raising bail money for the release of the three people arrested. Fowlkes was being held on $22,500 bond, Guillott on $9,500 bond, and Grant on $4,000 bond, according to jail records. It wasn’t clear Monday whether they have attorneys.
The two groups, frequently with armed people on both sides, have been involved in protests at several other recent drag-themed events across Dallas-Fort Worth.