CLEVELAND — In an Instagram live video from a May 23 incident shared with News 5 from Antoine Tolbert, you can hear an officer urging Tolbert to put his gun down as Tolbert asks the officer to explain what crime he has committed.
“I knew for a fact I didn’t do anything wrong, I wasn’t going to let my rights be violated in that moment, so I stood my ground,” said Tolbert.
Tolbert said he is legally allowed to carry a firearm and back in May he was openly carrying his shotgun near East 89th Street and St. Clair Avenue when the interaction with a Cleveland police officer ensued.
“I asked what law I broke, what crime did I commit, if I was free to go and he told me not free to go,” Tolbert explained. “I asked what law I broke and he didn’t say.”
Walking in neighborhoods armed is nothing new for this grassroots activist.
News 5 has shared several stories on his organization, New Era Cleveland as group members who are legally armed patrol Cleveland’s most violent neighborhoods with no intentions to hurt anyone.
RELATED: 'New Era Cleveland' aims to protect and unify Cleveland neighborhoods with its service work
“My purpose is to really show a presence and absolutely deter crime, but I focus on engaging with people out here to let them know that somebody is out here,” said Tolbert. “We want safe neighborhoods and it’s going to take a collective approach.”
That day Tolbert chose to patrol that specific neighborhood because not far away, just hours earlier five people were shot at the Five Points Shopping Center.
That same morning, a 14-year-old girl was shot in the head while laying on her bed and didn't survive.
RELATED: 14-year-old girl dies after being shot in bed inside home on Columbia Avenue in Cleveland
“Crime is not just a police issue, we live here and we’re experiencing it,” said Tolbert. “We have to play an active role to address these issues as well.”
According to a Cleveland police report Tolbert shared with News 5, the activist was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon and inducing panic. Police said the charges were dropped the next day and he was released.
Tolbert said his Second Amendment right was violated, and while he's grateful to be alive, he does believe he was only perceived as a threat because he's Black.
“All the time we see white men doing what they call Second Amendment audits, they go out with firearms and they anticipate to have police interactions and those interactions always end peacefully,” said Tolbert.
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