Texas sheriff faces calls to resign after bar owner, armed protesters arrested during protest

Law enforcement officers ordered the armed protesters to put their hands in the air after they...
Law enforcement officers ordered the armed protesters to put their hands in the air after they arrived in the parking lot of Big Daddy Zane's in Odessa, Texas. Under state orders, bars are to remain closed.(KWTX)
Published: May. 7, 2020 at 9:00 AM CDT
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Protesters spent Wednesday pushing back against the Ector County Sheriff’s Office after a bar owner and armed protesters were arrested on Monday.

“I want the sheriff to step down,” organizer Philip Archibald said. “100 percent. I want the sheriff to resign.”

Archibald is a Dallas-area resident, and while not arrested himself, is a member of the group of armed protesters taken into custody on Monday.

Eight people have been charged after the owner of Big Daddy Zane’s bar in Odessa decided to reopen in violation of the governor’s executive order.

The bar’s owner, Gabriella Ellison, was arrested for violating the governor’s order while the men were charged for unlawfully carrying weapons, a felony.

On Wednesday, Archibald organized protests across the Permian Basin, including an attempt to go to the home of Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis.

However, the address in south Midland County that the protesters were given isn’t where the sheriff lives. Instead, they were met by a confused homeowner who told them “No, no sheriffs here.”

Earlier in the day, organizers gathered outside the sheriff’s office.

Unlike Monday, protesters left their rifles and tactical vests in their cars, and emphasized that their protest is a peaceful one.

Still, armed deputies watched overhead, after the sheriff’s office says it received dozens of threats online and over the phone.

“I have no control over that,” Archibald said. “That’s people being angry about what [Sheriff Griffis] did, and he deserves that.”

The protesters have promised they will take legal action against the sheriff’s office.

The Ector County Sheriff’s Office explained no one was arrested for protesting. Instead, they’re behind bars because of how they chose to do it.

On Monday, seven men brandished rifles outside the bar, not with the intention of firing them, but for attention.

“They we’re practicing their second amendment right to protect my first amendment,” Ellison said. “They have absolutely no business in this jail right now.”

Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said these men were arrested because they brought those weapons onto the Big Daddy Zane’s property, which violates the TABC’s code.

The sheriff cited part of the code explaining that doesn’t just mean the inside of the building.

“All buildings, vehicles, and appurtenances pertaining to the grounds including any adjacent premises if they are directly or indirectly under control of the same person," Griffis said.

Protesters claims that’s not what happened. “We are going to bring the heat from our lawyers and we are going to make his life miserable politically,” Archibald said.

CBS-7 asked Ellison why she decided not to wait for the governor’s order to expire so she could open up legally instead.

She said by then it’ll be too late.

“I will lose my business,” Ellison said. “My bartenders are already starving to death. I see my bar owner friends can’t even pay for their medical—medicines. This is terrible.”

Griffis said he’s sympathetic to businesses that are hurting but "this is not the way to do this,” he said.

Ellison said despite what happened she plans to open her doors once again, even though doing so could mean more fines and jail time.