RICHMOND, Va. — As gun rights activists, white nationalists and militia groups prepare to rally at the state Capitol on Monday to protest proposed gun control laws, residents are praying it won’t be a repeat of the violent 2017 rally in Charlottesville that ended in a woman’s death.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, which organizes the annual gun rights rally, said it wants a “peaceful event,” but the crowd is expected to be larger than usual because Democrats took control of the Legislature last year and are proposing several gun control bills that would limit handgun purchases and require background checks, among other regulations.
The proposals come after a mass shooting in May in Virginia Beach, in which a disgruntled city employee killed 12 people in a municipal building.
“I’m very worried,” Francisca Benavides, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, said.
Benavides, who’s studying photography at the 31,000-student public research university, wanted to attend the rally to document it but is having second thoughts after Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency last week in anticipation of the event. He said “credible intelligence” indicated the rally would draw armed militias and hate groups.
Police are scouring the internet for clues about plans for mayhem, workers are putting up chain link holding pens around Virginia’s picturesque Capitol Square, and one lawmaker even plans to hide in a safe house in advance of what’s expected to be an unprecedented show of force by gun-rights activists.
Following a temporary emergency declaration by Governor Ralph Northam, large elements of the Virginia State Police have been photographed arriving in the capital city of Richmond, bringing with them a ROOK armored SWAT carrier.
The temporary emergency has been issued ahead of Monday’s Lobby Day Demonstration, in which tens of thousands of 2nd Amendment activists are expected to descend on the State Capitol in protest of Democrat-sponsored gun control and confiscation bills making their way through the newly-blue state legislature.