Protest and vigil planned in response to assault rifle celebration

Protest turns virtual as negotiations with Best Western fall through


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— A local group is planning a virtual protest and vigil in response to a four-day festival in Pike County, Pa., celebrating assault rifles and supporting gun rights.

The protest of the "President Trump Thank you Dinner," organized by the Delaware Valley Democratic Club, was originally scheduled for the evening of Feb. 24 at the entrances to the Best Western at Hunts Landing near Matamoras, Pa. Protestors were to carry candles and signs of the names and photos of the 17 students and teachers killed last week in Parkland, Fla. (the dinner is from 6 to 9 p.m.). But arrangements for the protest with the Best Western manager have apparently fallen through.

"Best Western has denied access to its properties to anyone who has not paid to participate in the event it is hosting on Feb. 24th that glorifies cult hate groups and the AR-15 assault rifle," posted organizer Ed Gragert last Thursday night. "As a result, the protest against such weapons used in the student and teacher murders in Parkland, Florida will be done virtually. ...Shame on the Best Western for hosting hate/cult groups that advocate the sale and use of the AR-15 and other assault weapons."

Michael Adset of Best Western Hotels & Resorts sent the Courier the following message on Tuesday: “Best Western Hotels & Resorts is not affiliated with and does not at all endorse any of the groups or organizations participating in this event. Best Western branded hotels are independently owned and operated, and the events that may take place at the properties, which may include a wide variety of diverse organizations that can have tremendously different points of view, are booked at the property-level in the communities that they serve. We truly appreciate the sensitivity of the subject, and we express our deepest, heartfelt condolences to the victims, students and family members of the Parkland, Florida school shooting and all those who have been impacted by gun violence.”

According to the poster announcing the dinner, the sponsors include Rod of Iron Ministries, a church in Newfoundland, Pa., headed by the Rev. Sean Moon; the Kahr Arms Tommy Gun warehouse in Greeley, owned by Moon's brother Justin Moon; and the Bold Media Group (not to be confused with the Bold Gold Media Group based in Monticello, N.Y.).

The proceeds will be benefit the Gun Owners Foundation, whose principal officer, Larry Pratt, will be special guest speaker at the dinner. Pratt has a more absolutist stance on guns rights than even the National Rifle Association. He told The New York Times in 2013 that part of the group’s mission is to stay on top of the NRA “when we don’t think they’ve gone far enough.”

The vigil will be held at the Pike County Courthouse, 412 Broad St., Milford, Pa., from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, the day the Rod of Iron Ministries will be holding its Day to Bear Arms. There will be a reading of names of those murdered by assault rifles in Florida and other schools and communities around the country in the past years. “We will be stressing that there is no room for hate and glorification of the AR-15 in NE Pennsylvania,” the organizers say. “Imagine people who will be driving and walking through our rural Pennsylvania communities that night carrying these weapons of mass murder.”

For more information, see related story "Local church to hold four-day celebration of assault rifles."

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the name of one of the sponsors, which was given on the announcement poster as Bold Media Group. The Courier regrets the error.



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