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Thousands of gun rights activists rallied at Virginia’s capital in Richmond on Monday, opposing gun control bills being introduced by the state’s Democratic majority.
The crowd outside the gates, the armed ralliers on the street pic.twitter.com/DgpJAQwoZf— Gordon Rago (@gragonews) January 20, 2020
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency last Wednesday over “threats of violence” at the rally, an attempt to head off a repeat of the violence that occurred at the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, which led to the death of an anti-fascism protester, Heather Heyer.
Northam noted “credible” law enforcement intelligence that various militia groups and hate groups planned to attend the rally, possibly for the purposes of “violence, rioting, and insurrection.” In fact, three suspected white supremacists were arrested by FBI agents, after months of surveillance, ahead of the rally.
On Friday, President Trump tweeted out what could be perceived as a rallying cry:
Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2020
Northam temporarily banned all weapons on the grounds of the capitol in Richmond. Many activists worried that the ban would create an impetus for even more militia members to show up at the capitol in full force–some even from out of state.
A great number of the protesters were documented by Jonathan Myerson Katz, who was on the ground in Richmond
Big American Empire patch energy pic.twitter.com/MPVrQseajj— Jonathan Myerson Katz (@KatzOnEarth) January 20, 2020
I asked the guy with this militia why he was holding a Hong Kong flag. He said, “It only seems fair. They’re holding ours.” pic.twitter.com/4uZ4BnakCj— Jonathan Myerson Katz (@KatzOnEarth) January 20, 2020
Show up they did, outfitted as if the apocalypse is near, with ill-considered signs. Flags teemed from the crowd, including American flags, Second Amendment flags, “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, and various militia symbols.
Many tried to make light of their gun activism:
And this guy pic.twitter.com/ZCkiIwpfrN— Jonathan Myerson Katz (@KatzOnEarth) January 20, 2020
In addition to quite a few people being armed with rifles in Richmond, there's also quite a few Gov. Northam yearbook pictures on signs. pic.twitter.com/v02m4P0gWU— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) January 20, 2020
Mostly, though, it’s just a lot of men trying to play soldier in a country where no one poses a threat to them:
what you see in the mirror vs what everyone else sees pic.twitter.com/Cyqhenclgo— Oliver Willis (@owillis) January 20, 2020
FWIW a lot of these militia folks are violating mask laws here pic.twitter.com/f9zDIMSJz9— Jared Holt (@jaredlholt) January 20, 2020
Armed militia members marching thru Richmond gun rights rally. This man came from Louisiana. Says Virginia gun laws are coming so quickly that he felt compelled to defend 2A #LobbyDay2020 #VirginiaRally pic.twitter.com/iQr4EHLsiU— Daniella Cheslow (@Dacheslow) January 20, 2020
One of the worst signs featured a dangerously false and disrespectful equivalency, especially with today being the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday:
Interesting argument pic.twitter.com/gYIDJW5xSI— Jonathan Myerson Katz (@KatzOnEarth) January 20, 2020
Gun control is not Jim Crow, no matter what the Sharpie says.
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This post has been updated.
Kahron Spearman is a music and film critic whose work can also regularly be regularly found in the Austin Chronicle.