PEMBROKE PINES (CBSMiami) – As hundreds entered the Charles F. Dodge City Center for the Pembroke Pines Gun Show on Saturday morning, protesters gathered outside in opposition of the event.
Several residents are angry and feel the event gives the city a bad look, since it is being held a few weeks after the deadly mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.
Protesters held up several signs as people made their way into the facility.
Lourdes Diaz, who lives in Pembroke Pines and is the Director of the League of Women Voters, was a part of the protest and has been vocal about wanting the show cancelled.
“We’re just shocked. We’re very, very angry,” Diaz said. “A lot of the citizens came out here in protest and I guess we’re going to have to change our city government.”
Diaz says the city’s taxpayers were not notified that the publicly owned city center would hold the show.
“I’m totally surprised because nobody knew about it. This was done in secret,” said Diaz. “This is not the kinds of shows we want in our family-oriented facility.”
On Wednesday, residents and activists tried to get city commissioners to cancel the show, but the commissioners said they couldn’t because a contract was already signed and if cancelled, it could a state law that prohibits elected officials from making regulations on guns.
The city signed the contract with the owner of the gun show, Khaled Akkawi, in January 2019 and Akkawi said Florida Gun Shows paid thousands of dollars to set up the event.
Meanwhile, inside of the city center, over a hundred vendors set up tables with various firearms on them.
Jorge Fernandez, manager of Florida Gun Shows, was at the event and says it’s safe and believes it is a family event.
“We’ve been in this business for many, many years and this is the largest gun show promoter in the state, with the most vendors, the highest levels of security, we hire law enforcement. Everything here is done by the book and we exceed those requirements that are established not only by the venue, but according to law,” Fernandez said.
He emphasized the show has nothing to do with the recent mass shootings.
“This is not meant to be insensitive, this is something that has already been in the works way before these incidents occurred, but you know, we have a business to run and this is a statewide business at large,” Fernandez said.
According to Fernandez, those who buy guns from vendors are required to go through a questionnaire and background check, before completing a transaction.
Broward County gun shows were originally held at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale before that city ended their contract, but Fernandez says a lot of people wanted the gun show back in Broward County.
“We’re back by popular demand. We just didn’t think this up. We’re back because we received hundreds of calls from citizens and from vendors and also from other interested parties, that they want to see us back in the Broward County area,” Fernandez said.
Akkawi told CBS4 they have events planned for the city center through 2020, but city commissioners have said they want to see what they can do to make this a one-time event.
The Pembroke Pines Gun Show goes until 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.