Crowds gather for pro-gun rally

Around 150 people gathered outside of Westmoreland County Courthouse to support Rostraver Police Officer Martin Palla and to show support of the Second Amendment in Greensburg on Sunday. Officer Palla’s actions received some backlash from his police chief and some members of the community after he stood quietly across from a March for Our Lives event in the same location a month prior with an AR-15 over his shoulder. Though Officer Palla was off-duty at the time, the action launched a departmental inquiry, and inspired a network of people to show they stand behind him and their constitutional right to bear arms.

“I feel like he was being made an example of for no reason,” said event organizer Brett Seroka, 32, of Belle Vernon, who started drumming up support through Facebook. “I felt it wasn’t right holding it against him that he’s a police officer,” said Seroka. “He stood quietly and exercised his Second Amendment, but we’re going to make some noise.”

Some came with pistols strapped to belts and AR-15s dangling from their body harnesses, to hear a lineup of speakers, including UK-born Nigel Broadbent, who now is an American citizen after 11 years in country. “It’s currently them and us, gun owners against non-gun owners. We need to come together and tackle the real problems,” said Broadbent, 48, of Oakdale. Middle school math teacher Josh Pollock, 25, of Elco, agreed. “Guns are not the issues causing the tragedies in school districts,” said Pollock, listing a lack of funding to staff school counselors, psychologists and social workers, as well as social media’s contribution to bullying. “As a society, we’re letting students fall through the cracks,” he said. ––Stephanie Strasburg

NRA instructor Marilyn Boulet, left, and her husband, Bill Perkins of Gibsonia rest their hands on their guns while gathering with other supporters of the Second Amendment at a pro-gun rally to support Rostraver Police Officer Martin Palla, Sunday, April 22, 2018, outside of the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg. Officer Palla received backlash from his police chief and some members of the community after he stood across from a March for Our Lives event the previous month with an unloaded AR-15 slung over his shoulder. Though Officer Palla was off-duty at the time, the action launched a departmental inquiry. “People take offense sometimes just because they don’t agree, but that’s not what the country’s about,” said Perkins, who said he came out to show support for the officer and for gun rights. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Nigel Broadbent, 48, of Oakdale adjusts a gun-shaped tie clip for a portrait while attending a pro-gun rally to support Rostraver Police Officer Martin Palla, Sunday, April 22, 2018, outside of the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg. Officer Palla received backlash from his police chief and some members of the community after he stood across from a March for Our Lives event the previous month with an unloaded AR-15 slung over his shoulder. Though Officer Palla was off-duty at the time, the action launched a departmental inquiry. “It’s currently them and us, gun owners against non-gun owners. We need to come together and tackle the real problems,” said Broadbent, listing issues such as bullying. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Corey May, left, 32, of Greensburg bows his head in prayer with other supporters of the Second Amendment at the end of a pro-gun rally to support Rostraver Police Officer Martin Palla, Sunday, April 22, 2018, outside of the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg. “I feel like he was being made an example of for no reason,” said event organizer Brett Seroka, 32, of Belle Vernon about the backlash Officer Palla received after he stood across from a March for Our Lives event the previous month with an unloaded AR-15 slung over his shoulder. Though Officer Palla was off-duty at the time, the action launched a departmental inquiry. “I felt it wasn’t right holding it against him that he’s a police officer,” said Seroka. “He stood quietly and exercised his Second Amendment, but we’re going to make some noise.” (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Yong Saccone, center, with her her husband Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-39), front right, rest their hands on their hearts during the national anthem while gathering with other supporters of the Second Amendment at a pro-gun rally to support Rostraver Police Officer Martin Palla, Sunday, April 22, 2018, outside of the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg. Officer Palla received backlash from his police chief and some members of the community after he stood across from a March for Our Lives event the previous month with an unloaded AR-15 slung over his shoulder. Though Officer Palla was off-duty at the time, the action launched a departmental inquiry. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Wyatt Hull, 23, second from left, of Greensburg holds his 12-gauge shotgun along with other supporters of the Second Amendment during a pro-gun rally to support Rostraver Police Officer Martin Palla, Sunday, April 22, 2018, outside of the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg. “I feel like he was being made an example of for no reason,” said event organizer Brett Seroka, 32, of Belle Vernon, about the backlash Officer Palla received after he stood across from a March for Our Lives event the previous month with an unloaded AR-15 slung over his shoulder. Though Officer Palla was off-duty at the time, the action launched a departmental inquiry. “I felt it wasn’t right holding it against him that he’s a police officer,” said Seroka. “He stood quietly and exercised his Second Amendment, but we’re going to make some noise.” (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)

In their own words: Click through the portraits to learn why people decided to show up to the rally.