Virginia Bans Firearms In Capital Building Ahead Of Pro Gun-Rights Rally In Richmond
Authorities in Richmond, Virginia are preparing for the Lobby Day rally, a pro-gun gathering, they fear may turn violent. The rally is scheduled for Monday, January 20th: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced on Twitter that intelligence agencies discovered violent threats and declared a state of emergency ahead of the rally, banning all firearms from entering areas surrounding the state’s capital building.
We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies of threats of violence surrounding the demonstration planned for Monday, January 20. This includes extremist rhetoric similar to what has been seen before major incidents, such as Charlottesville in 2017.
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) January 15, 2020
This is an annual event, but because of multiple gun-control laws that have been announced this month, authorities fear that angry gun-rights supporters and activists will react poorly. Counter-protestors, including the student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 students were killed in a mass shooting in 2018, are set to lobby in the state capital for gun control.
According to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, the rally’s organizers, it’s expected 50,000 people will attend. Groups including right-wing extremists and armed militias were expected to attend.
Seven members of a neo-Nazi group, including three who planned on attending Monday’s rally, were arrested by the FBI last week in Georgia. Three more were detained in Maryland and Delaware. They’ve been charged with attemped murder and participation in a criminal organisation.
Christian Yingling, leader of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia during the violent clashes in Charlottesville in 2017, told the BBC he wanted a lot of people to show up to Monday’s rally, but feared it would turn violent. “I think there’s enormous potential for something to go wrong.”
The fear of violent clashes comes from a similar demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 that left many injured and one counter-protester dead after a protestor drove his car into a large crowd.
Authorities in Richmond set up chain-link barriers around the Capitol and roads were closed off. Metal detectors have been set up around the capital for all those who wish to pass through the area.