A group of armed demonstrators protesting North Carolina’s stay-at-home order visited a Raleigh restaurant this weekend, weapons slung over their shoulders, and were captured in photographs that went viral.
Travis Long, a photojournalist with The News & Observer, said he shot the photos inside a Subway on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh.
One photo shows a protester carrying what appears to be an AT4 rocket launcher and two pistols in holsters on his waist. Another shows a protester holding a large weapon over his shoulder as he appears to take a selfie. Only two of the protesters who appear in the photos are wearing masks.
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The photos, which have been retweeted over 6,500 times, have gone viral on social media and gained the attention of celebrities like Patton Oswalt, Kathy Griffin and Mia Farrow.
Saturday’s protest was organized by a group called Blue Igloo, according to The News & Observer. NBC News reached out to Blue Igloo for comment Sunday but did not immediately get a response.
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In a video posted on the group’s Facebook page, members can be seen entering the sandwich shop and walking up to the counter to order meals.
“Do you guys mind if we eat here?” the person recording the video can be heard asking. “We don’t want to make it look like we’re threatening or intimidating anyone, which is why I ask.”
The demonstration Saturday took place during the first full day of North Carolina’s phased-in reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first phase, which began Friday evening, parks and certain businesses were allowed to reopen while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Gatherings remain limited to no more than 10 people.
As of Sunday morning, there had been 14,764 confirmed cases and 547 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in North Carolina.
Ali Gostanian is a New York-based reporter with NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team.