[Content Warning: Guns, Harassment, Bullying, Threats]

Open Carry Texas members during one of their demonstrations at a Dallas Chipotle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While leaving a restaurant with a friend recently, I noticed a group of 15-20 people walking down the street carrying flags. From a distance, they almost looked like Confederate flags. I live in Texas, so this was disappointing, but fairly unsurprising. As we looked closely, my friend noted that almost the entire group was armed. Some had smaller handguns, some had what appeared to be automatic or semi-automatic weapons, and others had rifles with scopes. Many of the guns had magazines or clips attached (I later learned that they make a point of carrying loaded weapons, stating: “There’s no reason to carry an unloaded weapon—it wouldn’t do any good.”). I looked at the flag and saw the words, “Open Carry Texas,” which search results told me isan organization dedicated to the safe and legal carry of firearms openly in the State of Texas.”  I’ve lived in Texas for over six years, but that doesn’t make the rampant conservatism and gun-obsession any less disgusting. I’ve also never been in such close proximity to so many guns, and I was triggered – I felt helpless and extremely anxious.

I tweeted about the event, despite the fact that I was visibly shaking & upset, and I tried to continue going about my evening out with my friend. In one of my tweets, I used the Twitter handle of the group that organized the rally, Open Carry Texas. I naively expected some semblance of professionalism out of the group’s official Twitter account as I voiced my opinion, but instead was met with the following:

The harassment shown above doesn’t include the Facebook post they made about me, or any of the harassers that they sent my way. For example, this guy who says I’m not part of his dating pool, but still seems oddly obsessed with me anyway. It doesn’t include the guy who said he’d continue to exercise his “right” to threaten me with or without police intervention, the guy who said he’d send Anonymous after me, the guy who told me to kill myself, the guy whose profile states he lives about 20 minutes from me and whose Twitter handle was literally “@ibuildbombs” (his profile has since gone private), or the ableist guy who likened liberalism to a mental disorder. And that list is hardly comprehensive either.

One thing you may have noticed is how much of the harassment leveled at me revolved around my gender and appearance. Mother Jones has an excellent piece about this group that focuses on the targeted sexism and misogyny of their bullying tactics. They tell the story of how Open Carry Texas publicized the phone number of a woman who called 911 on a open carry demonstration, yet “two other people called in with concerns about the demonstration that day—both men. No member of Open Carry Texas publicized their information.” Is it any wonder that women fear for their lives, given the mix of extreme misogyny and infatuation with firearms? It was only a couple of days ago that we saw how well those two mix.

Open Carry Texas was successful in obtaining that woman’s information, because Texas has something called the “Open Records Act,” which allows just about anyone to obtain various types of government information. One of the things they’re able to obtain is 911 records for calls like mine, which the group claims I made illegally. Even in Texas, local police have stated that people should report people or groups carrying guns saying “Let us determine what is lawful or unlawful.” However, that wouldn’t make my call any less easy to access.

Open Carry Texas member during a demonstration at a Dallas Sonic Drive-In.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite directives from the police, I was still concerned about my personal information being made public. I was concerned about the amount of ambiguity around what information authorities can and can’t give out as part of the Open Records Act. People assured me that as long as I didn’t list any identifying information in the audio of the call, I’d be safe. Given everything I’d endured so far, I decided to message the authorities on the matter to find out exactly what aspects of my information were safe. I told them, “The call audio in question does not include a name or phone number. Would the name or phone number be released along with the audio/transcript if it was obtained through Caller ID?” Their response was simply, “If it was asked for.”

For my harassers to obtain my number, all they had to do was fill out a few forms and ask for it. My initial feelings of fear and anxiety were founded – if calling 911 is in itself a dangerous act, where can I turn? Needless to say, I called my cell phone provider to change my number. I worked through the process of updating my friends and family with my new number, while trying to keep concerned friends & family assured that everything was going to be okay.

And everything has been okay. But the fact of the matter is, I shouldn’t have to worry about any of this. Women like me shouldn’t need to fear for their safety and privacy simply for daring to be a woman on the internet with opinions. We shouldn’t need to worry about whether making a legal 911 call will cause further negative ramifications. Because of this organized harassment campaign, I had to hand over the keys to my social media to a couple of friends, lock down my social media accounts, change my number, and ask my husband & friends to monitor the social media feeds of my harassers. None of that should have been necessary.

One silver lining of this ideal is that I found out how strong my support group is. Because of them, the bullying tactics Open Carry Texas used to try to scare me into silence haven’t worked. That’s not because of some superhuman mental fortitude I possess. Again, it’s only because of my support group. I worry about women who aren’t fortunate enough to have the support that I do, and decide voicing their opinion isn’t worth it. I could never blame anyone who is exposed to this kind of behavior for saying, “I’m done. Voicing my opinion isn’t worth the risk to my mental health and safety.” How many brilliant voices have we lost because online harassment and bullying are so acceptable?

If you’re being harassed or bullied, I encourage you to find and reach out to supportive groups online or in your area. Because this type of hatred and bigotry is so commonplace, you may be able to find resources (like I did) that you didn’t know were available to you. At the very least, a sense of community (like the one I’ve found through Skepchick) will provide you with friends to offer kind words and reassure you that everything is going to be okay. Together, we will not be silenced.

Featured Image by Lisa Roe.

courtneycaldwell

courtneycaldwell

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional vegan feminist and co-founder of BeVeganAnywhere.com. Her talents include clogging your social media with booze-soaked tirades, photos of her chihuahua, and pictures of delicious vegan meals. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you can follow @cultofcourtney on Twitter.

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34 Comments

  1. Profile photo of d506
    May 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm —

    “The harassment shown above doesn’t include the Facebook post they made about me, or any of the harassers that they sent my way. ”

    Wait, you called the police on a group you knew were engaged in lawful activity then tweeted them to say so while calling them white privileged assholes and you’re claiming that was harassment of you because they didn’t respond professionally? Honestly, their first couple of tweets were incredibly tame next to yours.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with Open Carry. The follow up hate you’ve gotten and will get isn’t okay. But calling the police on someone because you dislike them is the definition of harassment.

    • Profile photo of lamuella
      May 27, 2014 at 1:43 pm —

      Where does it say she knew the activity was lawful when she made the call?

      • Profile photo of d506
        May 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm —

        My take away from the initial paragraph was that she recognized the organization (or looked it up immediately), knew they were there protesting and didn’t think it was an uncommon event. I also assumed she knew her state laws around open carry since she’s clearly opposed to them. She said she called the police but didn’t say why, although she said they were allowed to be there. From that it seemed clear to me that she knew they were there legally but didn’t like it. Though the timeline of events isn’t super clear even after re-reading it a few times.

        I apologize if that wasn’t the case and she genuinely suspected illegal activity.

    • Profile photo of Parse
      May 27, 2014 at 2:42 pm —

      Okay, assuming you’re right that calling the police is harassment (and that’s a very generous assumption), what should Courtney have done? It’s a public space, and she has just as much right to be there as anybody else – and probably more of a right than the Open Carry folk, because she wasn’t actively scaring people. What you’ve effectively said is, “If you’re scared for your safety, don’t call the police.”

      • Profile photo of d506
        May 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm —

        Okay, flip it then: A religious lady and her young son leave a restaurant to see a few dozen gay couples marching for equal rights and holding hands. She’s shocked and shaking to see such a display in public, and calls the police because she’s afraid they’re a threat to her son (since she thinks gay = pedophile). She felt threatened; is she justified? What if she started that conversation by tweeting them to say they’re pedophiles who will go to hell? Would it be harassment for people to then call her a bigot online?

        Of course, homosexuality and pedophilia have nothing to do with one another. Gun advocates would say the same about gun ownership or open carry and criminality. Calling the police on someone because you don’t like them or they make you uncomfortable is either okay or it’s not. Calling people names online and then saying it’s harassment when they mildly respond is either okay or it’s not.

        • Profile photo of courtneycaldwell
          May 27, 2014 at 3:04 pm —

          Well one notable difference is that guns actually cause harm, and gay people generally do not. But if for some reason the lady had cause to believe that they were potentially going to do something illegal, by all means call the cops. It would be a moronic call to make, but she absolutely could.

          Also, you seem to be willfully ignoring the part where actual police have asked concerned citizens to call on these people, stating “Let us determine what is lawful.”

          • Profile photo of d506
            May 27, 2014 at 3:13 pm

            “Well one notable difference is that guns actually cause harm, and gay people generally do not.”
            I agree with you 100%. But the lady in my example does not. You can’t use the fact that you’re right to prove that you’re right.

            “Also, you seem to be willfully ignoring the part where actual police have asked concerned citizens to call on these people, stating “Let us determine what is lawful.”
            I’m not ignoring this. But if the police told ‘concerned citizens’ to call on, say, gay couples will children I would also call that harassment.

        • Profile photo of Parse
          May 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm —

          You’re the one telling Courtney not to do that. I ask again, what should she have done? What should people do if they’re scared for their safety, besides call the police?
          Flip the situation? Okay. Let the religious lady calls the police, and she gets told the exact same thing that Courtney got told: that they have every right to be there. Let the police determine what’s harassment and what isn’t; they’ve got more training than you or I.
          And I’m sure everybody appreciates your victim blaming here. “She called them names, therefore Courtney deserves all the harassment she received in return.” If pro-LGBT groups pulled the same retaliatory shit pro-Open Carry groups did (and they don’t), they’d be just as wrong.

          • Profile photo of courtneycaldwell
            May 27, 2014 at 3:50 pm

            Yep, I anticipated the victim-blaming would come out.

            Also, the “I’m just asking questions”/devil’s advocate shtick is really tired when it comes to real-life, prolonged, and targeted harassment.

          • Profile photo of d506
            May 28, 2014 at 9:03 am

            I am not victim blaming nor JAQing off. I very carefully took issue with a very specific statement you made: that the initial twitter exchange, excluding “the Facebook post they made about me, or any of the harassers that they sent my way”, was harassment. It simply wasn’t. You publicly engaged another person and they publicly responded. That is discussion, not harassment. At no point did I deny, excuse or blame you for the actual harassment you received.

            Victim blaming, JAQing off, harassment – these terms mean something. They’re not just clubs to beat people who disagree with you.

          • Profile photo of Parse
            May 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

            I very carefully took issue with a very specific statement you made: that the initial twitter exchange, excluding “the Facebook post they made about me, or any of the harassers that they sent my way”, was harassment. It simply wasn’t.

            Really? Let’s take another look at what you said:

            “The harassment shown above doesn’t include the Facebook post they made about me, or any of the harassers that they sent my way. ”
            Wait, you called the police on a group you knew were engaged in lawful activity then tweeted them to say so while calling them white privileged assholes and you’re claiming that was harassment of you because they didn’t respond professionally?

            That doesn’t look like you’re excluding “the Facebook post they made about me, or any of the harassers that they sent my way”, it looks like you’re directly referring to it – and implying that it’s her fault because she called them mean names.
            Yes, terms like Victim Blaming, JAQing off, and harassment mean something. That’s why we’re using them to describe your comments – because they’re accurate. The fact that you don’t like those terms being applied to you doesn’t change that fact.

          • Profile photo of d506
            May 28, 2014 at 1:39 pm

            “That doesn’t look like you’re excluding “the Facebook post they made about me, or any of the harassers that they sent my way”, it looks like you’re directly referring to it – and implying that it’s her fault because she called them mean names.”

            What are you talking about? I specifically quoted where she said “the harassment SHOWN ABOVE doesn’t include […]”, and then went on to explain why the “the harassment SHOWN ABOVE” was what is actually called “discussion”. You even quoted me quoting her. Do you not understand how words work?

            “Yes, terms like Victim Blaming, JAQing off, and harassment mean something. That’s why we’re using them to describe your comments – because they’re accurate. The fact that you don’t like those terms being applied to you doesn’t change that fact.”

            Ah. So now I’m harassing too? Well, I guess if you define disagreement as victim blaming, jaqing off and harassment then that follows.

          • Profile photo of Parse
            May 28, 2014 at 4:14 pm

            What are you talking about? I specifically quoted where she said “the harassment SHOWN ABOVE doesn’t include […]“, and then went on to explain why the “the harassment SHOWN ABOVE” was what is actually called “discussion”.

            Except by quoting the entire sentence, it’s ambiguous as to what you meant. You didn’t emphasize the words ‘shown above’ like you did in this comment. You didn’t give any indication that you were only talking about the first four words of the sentence, not the rest of it. You didn’t quote a sentence that only discussed the tweets shown on the page (like “I naively expected some semblance of professionalism out of the group’s official Twitter account as I voiced my opinion, but instead was met with the following”)
            It’s just as easy (if not easier) to read it as you talking about all the harassment, not just the few tweets shown in the post – and read your attempts to explain it as backpedaling. Considering the malice you assumed in Courtney’s actions, I hope you can see why I reached the conclusions I did.

          • Profile photo of d506
            May 30, 2014 at 8:25 am

            “Except by quoting the entire sentence, it’s ambiguous as to what you meant.”

            Except the subject of the entire sentence was “the harassment shown above”. I’m sorry you were confused, but that you seemingly have no idea how English works doesn’t mean I’m somehow backpedaling.

        • Profile photo of skeith
          May 27, 2014 at 8:45 pm —

          Okay, flip it. People are still saying to call the cops, even though it would be silly. The only person saying not to call the cops seems to be you.

          Calling the cops = petitioning your government for redress of grievances. 911 is provided for when one must get in touch with one’s government immediately, and non-emergency use of 911 can be sanctioned. Calling the cops in general, however, is a Constitutionally protected act, unequivocally so, unlike the act of carrying firearms for which the Constitutionality is not a settled question.

          • Profile photo of d506
            May 28, 2014 at 8:50 am

            I didn’t say she shouldn’t call the police. I say she shouldn’t have called the police if she knew they were behaving lawfully. She claimed she didn’t know that, and then I apologized.

            I don’t understand your point beyond that. I never claimed she shouldn’t call the police, only that to do so to punish someone for behaving in a way you don’t like is harassment. How would you react if the police were called on homosexual couples every time they left their house with their children? Again, if they were truly worried it would be a silly mistake – if not, then it’s harassment.

    • Profile photo of courtneycaldwell
      May 27, 2014 at 2:59 pm —

      Your takeaway was incorrect. I did not know it was legal at the time of the call.

      • Profile photo of d506
        May 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm —

        Then I do apologize. I misunderstood.

        • Profile photo of Andre H??
          May 29, 2014 at 9:20 am —

          No you didn’t
          “Call 911 on OpenCarryTexas. THEY’RE ALLOWED TO BE THERE (emphasis added) because laws privilege white assholes with guns. Fuck this state”
          https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=680645428648747

          • Profile photo of d506
            May 30, 2014 at 8:30 am

            In fairness, she said she called 911 on OpenCarryTexas and that they were allowed to be there. You left out the past tense on “called 911″. No reason to think she knew before she made the call.

    • Profile photo of Tess
      May 27, 2014 at 11:12 pm —

      Dude. A bunch of men with guns issued that’s as part of an ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against a woman because she didn’t like guys with guns traipsing through her town scaring the shit out of her.

      Tell me with a straight face after yet another killing spree this weekend that the right thing to do when you see people brandishing guns in public is to go about your business calmly unless or until they actually start shooting. Tell me that, you creepy-ass f-ck!

      • Profile photo of d506
        May 28, 2014 at 8:43 am —

        Err, again, I’m opposed to both open carry and Open Carry. And yes, when someone is behaving legally then going about your business is exactly what you should be doing – even if you feel that what they’re doing should be illegal.

        • Profile photo of Nell Webbish
          May 28, 2014 at 9:14 pm —

          Police departments in most states have very clearly stated that people should report guns being carried in public, especially by groups. This is also stated above in the article:

          Even in Texas, local police have stated that people should report people or groups carrying guns saying “Let us determine what is lawful or unlawful.”

    • Profile photo of Jon Brewer
      May 28, 2014 at 12:04 pm —

      Most people would think brandishing would be illegal, and it is illegal in most states. But not in Texas.

      My family has always used rifles for hunting and such, and note that unlike militia groups we have legitimate reason to fear the United States government (No, “They won’t let me graze federal land without paying a fee any more.” doesn’t qualify as legitimate reason.), but my father made sure we knew never to fall in love with guns to the extent these people are.

      • Profile photo of d506
        May 28, 2014 at 2:17 pm —

        Actually, it is illegal in Texas – though the specific law and definition might be slightly different. If you feel someone is showing a firearm in order to threaten you in some way you should definitely call the police.

        PENAL CODE
        TITLE 9. OFFENSES AGAINST PUBLIC ORDER AND DECENCY
        CHAPTER 42. DISORDERLY CONDUCT AND RELATED OFFENSES
        Sec. 42.01. DISORDERLY CONDUCT. (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly:
        (8) displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm;
        http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.42.htm

        • Profile photo of Andre H??
          May 29, 2014 at 9:18 am —

          That only applies if the weapon bearer displays the weapon in an attempt to threaten. Someone feeling threatened by the mere presence of the weapon doesnt count

  2. Profile photo of Paul
    May 27, 2014 at 5:34 pm —

    “if calling 911 is in itself a dangerous act, where can I turn?”

    No words can express how terrifying that is.

  3. Profile photo of Jon Brewer
    May 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm —

    I love how they threaten to send Anonymous after you. About that…

    Seriously, do they even know anything about Anonymous? I mean, let’s see…Steubenville, Rehtaeh Parsons, leaking the international opinion of the Tunisian government to Tunisian rebels, #OpPayback (against intellectual property law), #OpIsrael, #OpFrackOff…Does this sound like the kind of group that would align itself with militia groups?

    (The best response to “I’m going to send Anonymous after you.” is always “Well you’ve been at it for over nine thousand posts now. You just won’t give up, never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you, but I’m sure you can find their headquarters in West Philadelphia after getting past all seven proxies.” But that might be overdoing it just slightly, desu.)

  4. Profile photo of Nell Webbish
    May 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm —

    So does the Open Records Act allow you to request information on people who have used the Open Records Act to get information on 911 calls?

    That would be ironic, it wouldn’t it?

    • Profile photo of courtneycaldwell
      May 28, 2014 at 10:42 pm —

      Ha! I’m actually not sure… I’m not sure what I’d do with it if I could. It’s not like I want to post their phone numbers publicly so people can harass them.

  5. Profile photo of erik
    May 28, 2014 at 11:48 pm —

    Here’s the thing. In no way was Open Carry’s response to you appropriate, decent, or deserved. What they did and the others who joined in was vile behavior. I totally understand calling 911 because you felt threatened and unsafe, and understand the frustration when you found out that their demonstration, or whatever they called it, was legal. However, I wonder if taking to Twitter, dropping a race card, a f-bomb, and tagging Open Carry all in one tweet was a wise thing to do. I’m not saying shut up or passively walk away. I’m saying your first contact with them wasn’t very… diplomatic, and the fight got ugly real quick. It’s hard as hell, but giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who seemingly doesn’t deserve it may sometimes work wonders in these situations. Again, Open Carry’s response to you was horrible and not deserved – their rep had the same opportunity to respond professionally, but decided not to. In no way do I want to diminish or make light of that fact that you felt unsafe, or belittle your excellent points on bullying or online harassment. I’m just saying, If we can, whenever possible, avoid stooping to the level of a-holes who may be itching for a fight, then maybe some hope for decent change can happen around here.

    • Profile photo of kerandria
      June 4, 2014 at 10:57 am —

      Fuck you, erik. May a thousand cats pee on your face while you sleep.
      Oh, I’m sorry. Maybe I’m not being POLITE enough for you.

      • Profile photo of erik
        June 9, 2014 at 2:11 am —

        kerandria,
        Since you decided to insult me without any form of intellectual discourse, I guess you are itching for a fight, too.

  6. Profile photo of Christopher Blackwell
    June 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm —

    Look how these nuts are handling their guns. Have they not been taught basic safety. By the way I wonder how many of them have a bullet i the chamber. I was trained as a Marine my DI would have killed me if I treated my M14 that way. Like the idiot that carried a load pistol with a round in the chamber into WallMart dropped it and it fired nearly hitting a baby and actually wounding the mother. I would have had him arrested for reckless endangerment. When you carry a weapon in public, it is your sole responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt. You maintain a firm hold on your weapon you do not have a round in the chamber and you face it is such a way that if it did go off no one would be harmed. A gun is a killing weapon, it is not a toy nor a faux penis extender. Careless idiots like this should not be allowed to carry a weapon in public. If someone like this come into my shop I would shoot to kill believing they were planning to rob the shop.

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