After being turned away from two restaurants, Michigan Open Carry is taking their dinner to an Ann Arbor park.
The gun-toting group, which unsuccessfully tried planning a group dinner at Holiday’s Restaurant and Frank’s
Restaurant in Ann Arbor, will instead meet up for a pizza party at the “Wooden Shelter” in Ann Arbor’s Gallup Park at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 29, members said.
MOC board member Rob Harris, who was in charge of planning the dinner, didn’t want to share where the pizza was being ordered from for fear the business would be bombarded with calls.
Managers at Holiday’s and Frank’s both said they eventually turned the group away because of the backlash they received over hosting the controversial group, which advocates open carrying firearms in public, including schools. There have been two lawsuits recently filed against the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Public Schools regarding carrying guns on school property, which state law does not expressly forbid.
The issue exploded earlier this year when member Joshua Wade sported his sidearm at a Pioneer High School concert recital.
“I’ve never in my time encountered this much fear,” said Harris, who added he sets up similar dinners all over southeast Michigan without incident. “The anti-gun mentality has taken hold in that city more so than any others we have visited.”
Harris said the dinner was originally scheduled to take place at Holiday’s Restaurant, where several members already frequent.
“Our first venue was very excited to host us but soon after posting our event on Facebook the owner was harassed by those who detest guns, forcing him to cancel,” Harris wrote in a Facebook post.
Via phone Friday evening, Harris said the restaurant received complaints from people who said they were from the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor schools.
“His business was threatened,” Harris said.
When reached by phone Friday, Holiday’s manager Rob Terbush said their loyal customers voiced concerns about having such a controversial group there.
“We have the best customers in the world and that’s the best part of my job,” Terbush said.
It was a similar story at the second venue Harris tried to book, Frank’s Restaurant.
“Everybody was calling and complaining,” said Frank Zrvos, general manager at the restaurant. “We just thought it was a normal dinner. (But) it was too much controversy.”
After Frank’s cancelled, Harris decided to get a pavilion at an Ann Arbor park.
“(The city) has no legal right to question who is renting the pavilion,” Harris said.
The group says it’s offended that planning a dinner in Ann Arbor has been so troublesome.
“It offends me that a community that prides itself on diversity would stand proudly to discriminate the God-given and Constitutionally-protected right of anyone,” said Greg O’Neill, southeast regional coordinator for MOC. “We are law-abiding citizens from all walks of life, including race, color (and creed), and proud to exercise our Second Amendment right.”
Harris said it only strengthens the organization’s convictions.
“It emboldens us. It gives us a reason to come (to Ann Arbor) more often,” he said.
Anywhere between 30-50 open carry advocates are expected to attend.