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Armed stay-at-home demonstrators visit North Carolina Subway shop

A group of protesters who demonstrated against North Carolina's coronavirus restrictions gained national attention over the weekend after carrying an assortment of different weapons into a Subway sandwich shop.

Photos taken by Travis Long, a photojournalist with The News & Observer, quickly went viral on social media on Saturday, racking up more than 7,000 retweets. The images, taken at a restaurant in Raleigh, showed multiple individuals with face coverings and weapons secured to their bodies. 

One protester was carrying an AT4 rocket launcher, with a sticker saying “inert” on it. Another person was pictured with a pump-action shotgun while wearing a scarf over his face. One photo showed a man with a shotgun by his side as he ate a sandwich. 

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A photo taken outside the restaurant showed a man taking a selfie with a .50-caliber wooden prop machine gun. 

The individuals pictured marched through the city of Raleigh on Saturday as the state moved into Phase 1 of its reopening, which relaxed some restrictions that were implemented due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The gathering was organized by a group called Blue Igloo and billed on its Facebook page as an “opportunity for First and Second Amendment supporters to get together, meet people with commonalities and get some exercise while we’re all wasting away at home.”

A video posted on the group's Facebook page showed individuals marching throughout the city and at one point stopping at a Subway restaurant. One person can be heard asking employees if they felt comfortable with them at the store. 

"We don’t want to make it look like we’re threatening or intimidating anyone, that’s why we ask," one person said, prompting an employee to say they could order food from the store.

North Carolina is an open-carry state. However, it is among at least six states that bar individuals participating in rallies from carrying firearms, according to McClatchy News.

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No one was arrested during the group's demonstration on Saturday, The News & Observer reported. Raleigh and State Capitol Police escorted the group as they marched through the city. 

"The walk on Saturday wasn't a protest, it was a gathering to support our God-given freedoms as Americans," the group said in an email to NBC News. "We headed out for a walk to get some fresh air, sunshine, and some much needed exercise. We are a peaceful group, and wish to keep it that way at all costs."

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus spurred governors around the country to institute stay-at-home orders that led to a mass closure of nonessential businesses and schools. Protests have emerged in several states in recent weeks, as some argue that the measures are too restrictive. 

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has put together a three-phase plan to gradually lift coronavirus-related restrictions. Phase one, which the state entered on Friday evening, allows some businesses to reopen as they long as they maintain social-distancing restrictions.

Restaurants like Subway can serve food for takeout or curbside to-go orders but are barred from allowing dine-in seating.