SALT LAKE CITY -A pro-gun group from Utah says they were illegally held by police in Chicago after trying to attend a “March For Our Lives – Road to Change” rally.
“Our mission is to preserve freedom. If you're offended by that there's something wrong with you,” said Bryan Melchoir, Co-Owner of Utah Gun Exchange.
Utah gun exchange says they wanted to go to the "road to change" event held by parkland shooting survivors to focus the conversation on peace and not turn it into an anti-gun movement.
The March For Our Lives is going around the country at the same time as the Utah Gun Exchange, who is holding a #UGEFREEDOMTOUR.
“We pointed our compass directly towards Chicago and decided to participate in the march of our lives kickoff event,” Melchoir said.
With logos covering a bear cat, truck and trailer, Utah Gun Exchange hit the streets of Chicago Friday.
“We were informed our vehicles were not acceptable, [and] we would be removed, and that was thirty minutes into getting there,” Melchoir said.
After finally finding a place to park the bear cat, Bryan says Chicago police pulled up.
“They said they needed to inspect the replica firearms that are on our vehicle in order to ensure they're not real,” Melchior said.
Half the group was escorted to the Chicago Police Station to make sure the decorative guns were, in fact, just decorations.
“This is something that takes every other person on the planet about five seconds, it took them over six hours,” Melchior said.
After the bomb squad came in, ATF and forensics showed up.
Melchior said his group was finally let go, six hours later, but not before an officer took him aside.
“'Don't go back to the event, cut your losses, [the officer said]' and I said, 'why, what do you mean don't go back to the event,' and he was like, 'cut your losses, you're going to be in a jail cell if you go back there,'” Melchior said.
Immediately the group left Chicago.
“It was freakin scary,” Melchior said.
Later that day a survivor of the parkland shooting posted a picture standing in front of the Utah Gun Exchange bear cat with the caption… "So somebody brought a buy/sell/trade tank to the peace march.. Yikes, guys. People are counter-protesting peace."
Melchior says he talked to this teen just hours before, and the teen applauded Utah for being safe with guns and using them responsibly.
While many argue Utah Gun Exchange is insensitive by showing up to the events, “I would say it's pretty insensitive to deprive me of my rights to defend myself and my family that's insensitive,” Melchior said.
FOX13 reached out to Chicago Police who said they would work on a statement but we have not heard back.
As for Utah Gun Exchange, they say this is not the last time they’ll cross paths with the March For Our Lives tour. They’ll be in New York, Washington D.C. and here in Utah on July 14.