Colonial Heights gun range to Black Lives Matter: ‘You’re not welcome here’

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 11:34 PM EDT
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COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WWBT) - There are strong sentiments after a Colonial Heights business posted a sign in its store saying if you’re associated with Black Lives Matter, “you’re not welcome here.” The company received a huge amount of backlash in just a matter of hours.

The store’s customers said they love going to The Smoking Gun, saying the staff is friendly and professional. It’s why so many were taken off guard by a sign that left them hurt.

“Where you go to pay, it’s right there. You can’t miss it,” Jhovan Galberth said pointing to the sign.

“If you are anti-police, anti-military, associated with Cop Block, {or} Black Lives Matter (because all lives matter), stay off of my range. You are not welcome here. Period,” the sign says.

“I thought it was a joke. I didn’t think that it was real…At this time, this is definitely one of those ideas you kind of want to keep to yourself at this moment. It’s just something that would cause more pain than anything,” Randus Ayres, owner of nearby restaurant Charlotte’s Chicken and Waffles, said.

Within hours, there was a social media firestorm. That’s when the gun range took to Facebook to clarify.

“We are against those within the Black Lives Matter organization that are calling for burning down businesses, harming police officers and causing chaos. We realize this isn’t the case with everyone involved with the movement…We believe that ALL LIVES MATTER. Being one race does not set you above another,” company officials said.

“To everyone that says ‘all lives matter,’ duh. Not once have I heard someone saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ say that a white life doesn’t matter or a Hispanic life doesn’t matter. Not once have I heard that, so I don’t understand the tension of changing the narrative to make it a bad thing. What we’re working for is peace, is justice. We’re not saying we’re better than anyone. All we want is equal rights,” Galberth said.

Galberth is a local organizer who has spent the past couple of weeks organizing peaceful protests across the Tri-Cities.

“You have to get out of the narrative that it’s black vs. white because that’s not the narrative at all. It’s everybody against racism” he said.

NBC12 reached out to the company by Facebook and called but didn’t get a response. When NBC12 stopped by The Smoking Gun, crews were told the owner wasn’t there and no one was available for comment.

“By all means, you have every right to post anything in your business that you want to. It’s just when you start losing customers or start having people feel a certain way about your business, don’t ask why because you already know why,” Ayres added.

“In this moment, until things change, until we get justice and equal rights in this moment, black lives matter because black lives are being killed every day,” Galberth added.

The Smoking Gun says it condemns the officers charged with murdering George Floyd. After some reflection, the company has decided to re-word the sign to simply say members of hate groups are not welcome.

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