Event organizer

Phoenix event organizer slammed for remarks on protests

A Valley event organizer has responded to criticism over its mention of guns and other demands for a Friday night event, which would coincide with protests over the killings of black men and women by the police.

Casey Stechnij is the coordinator of AZ Partiesa food truck event that held its first event since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak on Friday night.

Prior to the event, Stechnij announced that it would potentially coincide with the nightly protests unfold in Phoenix in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Dion Johnson and other black men and women at the hands of law enforcement.

He asked that “as a precaution” attendees do not bring extra gas or propane cans.

Stechnij also wrote that if any food truck owners or employees were carrying guns, “I’d like to know.”

“I would prefer ccw (i.e. concealed carry), but I’m #2 pro, but let’s keep it on the DL,” Stechnij wrote. “Please discreetly tell me what you have, where it is and how many rounds. Please consider no magazine and nothing chambered.”

Stechnij said he had “no information what was going to happen” and said he expected it to be a “magical night”.

In response to the post, food truck Rhema Soul Cuisine posted on its Facebook page denouncing Stechnij for “stoking the racist flames of division in our community”.

Stechnij called the claims “slanderous” in an interview with The Arizona Republic via Facebook Messenger.

Rhema Soul Cuisine’s post, which did not list an author, said the company was “concerned that Casey is encouraging truckers to bring weapons to a peaceful protest.”

The statement said the company intended to simply dissolve the working relationship between Rhema Soul Cuisine and AZ Feastivals, to include Stechnij, but after seeing his post “we felt we had to talk.”

Stechnij said the incident was ultimately “out of proportion and out of context” and was simply trying to ensure a safe experience for event attendees.

“I want to make sure all guns are stored safely and have a conversation with the owners,” he said. “It’s part of any security measure for an event.”

Asked who might question his authority to regulate the carrying of weapons at the event, Stechnij said people had the right to carry but he had a “duty to provide a safe event for the greater public and participating truckers”.

He said he welcomed “the whole community” to Friday’s event.

“I am thrilled to meet our hungry neighbors, committed protesters and patriotic truckers,” he said. “Let’s eat and break bread together.”

Rhema Soul Cuisine told The Republic he had nothing to say beyond his earlier public statement.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8529. Follow her on Twitter @brieannafrank.

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