Women’s March Co-President Tamika D. Mallory is spearheading a movement against the National Rifle Association’s recent ad, “Freedom’s Safest Place” that portrays protesters in America as the enemy, which she says is a “dangerous” call to arms for its members.
Mallory is a social justice activist who worked with New York City officials and closely with the Obama Administration as an advocate for issues surrounding civil rights, equal rights for women, health care, gun violence and police misconduct.
In a phone interview with DiversityInc, she said several people made her aware of the NRA ad when it was first released.
“Initially, I thought, honestly, that it might have been like a joke, it wasn’t real,” she commented. “After I realized the ad was in fact an NRA ad, I immediately recognized that it was very dangerous.
“That particular ad was calling on violence toward people who look like me — Black and brown folk, number one, then of course people who are protesters.
“The video is very dangerous and threatening to people who are practicing their First Amendment rights in this country.”
Dana Loesch, who serves as the NRA’s special assistant to the executive vice president for public communication, is featured in the ad, which Mallory said uses “us versus them” rhetoric. Loesch refers to protesters only as “they.”
“They use their ex-president to endorse the resistance, all to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and to smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports,” Loesch says during part of the ad.
“Immediately we had an internal conversation about the video after Women’s March members saw it all at the same time,” Mallory said.
The members decided “it should not be something that we keep quiet,” she said. “Folks need to know for their own safety that there is in fact a war against us.”
Mallory penned an open letter to NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre on June 28 with three demands:
“One being that they would pull the video down from their official site,” she explained.
“The second being that they would apologize for ever creating a video like that in the first place.
“And then, of course, the third request is that they would use this as an opportunity to, instead of having such a dangerous and harmful video, use their voice and their influence to speak on behalf of Philando Castile.”
Dashcam video shows what happened before police killed Castile during a traffic stop.
On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot multiple times during a traffic stop in Minnesota after he told the officer he had a firearm. Castile, who was a registered firearm owner, died from his injuries. The officer involved was acquitted of the criminal charges last month.
Women’s March, the grassroots movement that organized what became a global protest the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, stated the letter sent to LaPierre about the NRA ad “was decried by many card-carrying NRA members and some Republican legislators as well.”
Mallory said the organization did not receive a direct response from LaPierre.
Who are ‘They’?
In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “New Day Weekend,” Mallory and Loesch had at times a heated debated regarding the purpose of the NRA’s ad and the organization’s stance on Castile’s death.
“Who is the ‘they’ that you all refer to in the ad?” host Christi Paul asked Loesch.
“Those are the people who think somehow peaceful protest is the exact same thing as the violent riots,” she responded.
“All of the footage that is shown in the ad came to fruition by the concern of the millions of NRA members that ‘they’ are the people who actually engage in the riots or who sanction them by silence.”
In July 2016, the NRA released a statement following Castile’s death stating the reports from Minnesota are “troubling and must be thoroughly investigated,” and “rest assured the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”
Paul asked Loesch, “The facts are now known, the case if over, why haven’t we heard from the NRA?”
Loesch responded, in part:
“Do I believe that Philando Castile deserved to lose his life over a stop? I absolutely do not. I also think this is why we have things like NRA Carry Guard, not only to reach out to citizens to go over what to do during stops like this, but also to work with law enforcement so that they understand what citizens are experiencing.”
Paul asked Loesch, “You’re speaking for the NRA and what you are saying this morning is a formal statement on their part?”
She replied that she is the national spokesperson and, “It’s a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided.”
Mallory said the effort that was put into the NRA’s ad should be mirrored in voicing an opinion over Castile death.
“She speaks about the concealed carry record being in your pocket,” Mallory said. “Black people are not allowed to reach for their concealed carry record because if we reach anywhere, we are shot and killed, and that does not happen to white people.”
“White people are not allowed, either,” Loesch replied. “I don’t think this is a racial issue.”
Planned Mass Demonstration
The Women’s March announced that a mass demonstration is scheduled to take place on Friday. Protesters will march 17 miles from NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Va., to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington, D.C., to protest NRA’s “incendiary and racist actions.” The following day, a rally will take place at the DOJ.
“I think that people have to look at legislators who support the NRA, legislators who are not standing up and speaking out against this type of rhetoric,” Mallory told DiversityInc. “You have to make a decision, particularly as we have the midterm elections coming up, whether or not these are the candidates you want to support.”