Three people who brought firearms to the opening festivities of Gathering Place on Saturday were turned away from the property, according to the Tulsa Police Department.
Two of those people were part of a gun rights advocacy group that Sgt. Chris Witt declined to identify. One man, Tim Harper, who had a holstered handgun strapped to his waist, told a Tulsa World photographer that he was a member of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.
“I hate to give them a lot of publicity because that’s what they want,” Witt said.
Witt said the group contacted city, police and park officials in advance to notify them that members planned to bring guns into the park. The rules of the park prohibit firearms.
In a statement, Gathering Place officials said firearms are not conducive to creating a welcoming environment.
“Over many years, we sought input from the Tulsa community on how to ensure Gathering Place is a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for Tulsans and their families. The community responded emphatically that firearms at the park are not conducive to creating this kind of environment, which is why they are not permitted. Park security and the Tulsa Police Department are working together to ensure these rules are clearly communicated and consistently enforced,” the statement says.
In a video taken by a Tulsa World photographer, four police officers on bicycles are seen ushering Harper to the park’s exit as he films the encounter.
“Security explained to them what the rules are,” Witt said. “They argued a little bit and filmed, and then we made sure that their concealed carry license was valid, which it was in each case. Security said you need to leave or you will be arrested for trespassing. In every case, they just chose to leave.”
Witt said Gathering Place security officials, who are not armed, were in charge of escorting the people off the property. The police department was acting in a support role, he said.
A third man who brought a firearm into the park was not associated with the advocacy group, according to Witt. Witt said he gave the man a ride to Expo Square to allow him to store his weapon in his vehicle. He then brought the man back to the park to enjoy the day.