It's not every day that you see a group of people carrying rifles and holstering pistols while ordering coffee from Starbucks—while its not common, it's certainly legal with South Dakota's Open Carry laws here in the state.
To raise awareness and support those laws, the Sioux Falls chapter of South Dakota Open Carry held a weapons walk down Minnesota Avenue Saturday, carrying guns and flags supporting the rights gun owners have here in the state.
"We're just out expressing our rights, our constitutional rights both protected by the U.S. Constitution and state constitution of South Dakota," said Jesse Rierson, the event organizer and Vice President of Sioux Fall's Open and Carry chapter.
The rally drew dozens of concerned citizens to Minnesota Avenue.
"I'm pretty impressed actually, when families can bring their kids in strollers and carry a gun, that's what I like to see," said Ryan Oswald, a participant in the weapons walk.
State Representative Manny Steele was also walking to support South Dakota's gun rights.
"Because of the conflict of some trying to take our gun rights away from us, we need to be able to make a statement that according to the second amendment; it's our right to do this," said Steele.
The group received several honks of support as they walked up Minnesota Avenue, but they were also met with some wary glances.
"I was very surprised when I saw them because, there's a big gun and a pistol and everything and I was so frightened," said Menbere Seyoum, who sitting in Starbucks when the Open Carry group arrived.
"It makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable just to have a whole bunch of people with really big guns for no reason," said Jacky Klefsaas, who saw the group while she was driving up to the Starbucks window.
"We're trying to change that stigma that society has when they see a firearm, that perception that they have of that firearm. We want to teach them to look at the individual and not what they're carrying," said Rierson.
The event also drew some protesters who say people shouldn't have to get used to seeing guns.
"We're protesting the open and carry gun rally down on Minnesota Avenue; we are against it, we don't think it's necessary to carry your gun in a public place," said open and carry protester Kelsey Billam.
While the two groups had very different opinions on gun laws, they all agreed to their right to express those opinions.
"They have every right to do that, I fully respect their right to do that, there's nothing wrong with having a different view or opinion," said Rierson.
"Both groups live in America, both groups are allowed to exercise these rights and I think that's good, that's part of America," said Adrielle Munger, another protester against open and carry.
A Mitchell pastor had also planned a demonstration against the weapons walk, but called it off Saturday morning after reading some harsh comments online.
South Dakota Open Carry President Adam Turner released this statement after hearing about the online threats:
"We are saddened to hear that anyone is making threats toward one of our upstanding religious community groups. We respect their beliefs, and look to our religious leaders and Churchs for guidance. We (SDOC) in no way condone anyone on either side of this issue making threats in an attempt to suppress a group or a individual from exercising their Constitutional rights. SDOC has also been receiving threats on Twitter and other social media in recent days, in an attempt to discourage us from exercising our Rights. As unfortunate as it is that some people choose to behave in such a manner, we will not allow these people to intimidate us from exercising our Constitutionally protected rights and will continue as planned with our walk."
Despite the threats to both groups, there were no incidents during any of Saturday's demonstrations.
***This story has been edited to reflect that the rifles carried during the walk were not assault rifles, but semi-automatic rifles.
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