Gun-rights activists celebrate Patriots' Day at Utah Capitol
American flags, AK-47s, camouflage and "Impeach Obama" signs dotted a small rally in honor of the 239th anniversary of "the shot heard round the world," which launched the American Revolution.
"If it wasn't for that date, we wouldn't be a country," said organizer Robert Falin, affectionately dubbed "Militia Bob," at the Saturday gathering on the steps of the Utah Capitol, which drew about 120 people.
The Patriots' Day rally focused heavily on supporting the Second Amendment right to own firearms. About a dozen of the attendees carried long rifles and assault weapons, while a smattering of others had holstered pistols.
The group of political conservatives lamented new gun control laws in states such as Colorado and Connecticut, in the wake of a mass shooting there, and organizer Janalee Tobias called for gun safety classes to be taught in schools.
A number of rally attendees held signs protesting President Barack Obama and the federal government generally; among them was Jefferson Artigas, of Ogden, whose sign read "Disarm Federal Agencies."
He complained that Obama has made the government "more tyrannical" and as an example pointed to the recent Bureau of Land Management action against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
Bundy owes the federal government more than $1 million after decades of failing to pay ranching fees on public land. The BLM sent agents to confiscate Bundy's cattle that were grazing on federal land, resulting in a standoff between agents and protesters and militia members. The BLM eventually backed down.
Artigas wasn't at the standoff, but he called members of the public who resisted the BLM officials "heroes."
"Why do we need such a hostile government?" he asked. "I want my freedom. I don't think we need people in Washington to tell us how to live."