Anti-lockdown protesters showed up at Subway sandwich shop in North Carolina with more than just their wallets over the weekend. Viral photos showed close to a dozen of them carrying weapons, including an apparent rocket launcher, inside the shop on Saturday.
Travis Long, a photojournalist for the North Carolina-based newspaper The News & Observer, said he took the pictures on his day off while tracking a group called Blue Igloo, which the Observer said set up the gathering in downtown Raleigh to show support for the First and Second Amendments.
His photos show the group — with and without masks — ordering at the sandwich franchise from a single employee behind the counter. One man had a weapon resembling an AT4 rocket launcher with "inert" stickers near the top, as well as guns on his waist. Another had a rifle that appeared to be partially made out of wood.
Long told CBS News that he thought the Subway appearance was a protest against social distancing measures.
"It just speaks to how strange this time is and how fractured, divisive our culture is right now," Long said. "Something as simple as ordering a sandwich requires a large amount of firepower to prove a point that you're trying to make about the Constitution."
The pictures gathered thousands of retweets and more than 20,000 likes on Twitter, and were shared by comedians including Kathy Griffin and Patton Oswalt. Actress Mia Farrow tweeted, "Arrogant, armed stupid white privilege."
North Carolina is an open-carry state, but it does not allow guns at rallies. Blue Igloo acknowledged it was illegal to carry firearms and protest, telling CBS News on Monday that they were "simply out for some fresh air, sunshine and exercise."
When asked if carrying around their weapons was a message, the group told CBS News that it was just a "reminder that the 2nd Amendment is enumerated just like the 1st Amendment."
A Facebook Live showing the event captured the group entering the store. The man holding the camera asked the employee if they could enter. The employee said yes, but told the group they would have to eat outside. Some members of the group ate inside anyway.
North Carolina has lifted some of the state's social distancing restrictions, and Saturday was the first full day with the eased rules. But dining inside food venues was still forbidden.
No arrests were made, according to The News & Observer, but there was at least one interaction between demonstrators and a couple taking a stroll with their two children. Video shot by the newspaper shows the family telling an armed group to stay away from the other side of an intersection. Most members of the group started walking in a different direction, but an unidentified man walked up to the family with a large wrench. At that point, attorney Deonte Thomas told the news outlet, he felt afraid.
"They are not protecting themselves," Thomas said. "They are literally walking around terrorizing people."
Thomas also accused the wrench-carrying demonstrator of lifting his arm and hand, akin to a Nazi salute. Blue Igloo said the man wasn't a part of their group, and was just trying to give the family a high-five.
"The streets we were walking on were public, and anyone is allowed to be there," the group added.