On the 20th of January, tens of thousands of gun owners gathered near the VA state Capitol to lobby against proposed new gun laws, some warned while wearing rifles that gun confiscation would be resisted by force. While tens of thousands protested the proposed gun laws, extreme-right groups from Trump campaigners to neo-Nazis and a few Confederate flag wavers tried and failed to overshadow or take over the rally.
With fears that neo-Nazis and other extreme-right elements would turn the Richmond gun rally into “another Charlottesville,” someone dropped a banner reading “Remember Heather Heyer” over I-95, the main approach route to Richmond from points north or south. The Governor used it as an excuse to declare a state of emergency, ban guns etc from the one-block across square below the state capital, and funnel the crowd into a fenced pen. With all the tension, a single backfiring car engine or foolishly set off firecracker could have triggered a deadly stampede, with fleeing rallygoers piling up at the fences and being trampled.
For all the visibility of the Trump campaigners and the interviews given to media outlets about civil war, the majority of participants were there only to lobby and protest against the package of new gun laws newly-elected Democrats want to enact in Virginia. This is comparable to a similarily huge pro-choice rally after the GOP takes over a state and seeks to ban abortion and birth control: While hard-core revolutionary groups are guaranteed to show up, most of the marchers are just there to oppose the offending package of legislation and nothing more.
While there were a lot of Trump supporters in MAGA hats etc there, every time they tried to get pro-Trump chants going the far larger overall crowd refused to chant with them. Trumpers were common enough to give the rally the appearance of a Trump campaign rally, but the behavior of rallygoers said otherwise. The Trumpers were the most numerous right-wing “other than guns” people present, but nastier and more violent folks were also on the scene. One group of militiamen made threats against an Indymedia reporter, describing him and using the words “black bike” over their radio communications network. This particular cluster was on foot and were unable to deliver (short of opening fire) on their threats against a much more mobile bicycle-riding camera person.
In addition to the “bad apple” militia that made threats, Jovi Valle showed up along with several Proud Boys and they were confronted by anti-Fascist activists. Jovi Valle is a known Holocaust denier, made remarks denying the Holocaust, and earned an article in rawstory.com about both his Holocaust denial and the heckling he earned for it. The antifa activists were on the scene both patrolling for Nazis (who event organizers attempted to order to stay away), and also because many anti-Fascists themselves do NOT want the government disarming the general public. The current US government has an all but open fascist in the White House, the GOP largely an overtly fascist party, and hate crimes are the highest they have been in decades. Many consider disarming the public in the face of this sort of governmental behavior to be a suicidal risk.
Reality check: it takes more than vegan potlucks to keep an armed fascist government OR armed fascist militas from putting children in concentration camps. It also takes more than just owning weapons. It takes training, it takes organization, and more. The far-right has gone well down that road already, and many of them (as they said openly in Richmond) are preparing for outright civil war in the way anyone prepares for war. Both mainstream gun owners and members of the extreme right were showing off their firepower in Richmond on Jan 20, and so far by comparison we have never had a march of 20,000 Van Spronsons with rifles in hand, warning ICE to keep their hands off the children.
All too often, we of the Left hold bake sales while the Nazis and Fascists are at the gym, the dojo, and the gun range. If the civil war spoken of by some of the worst right-wing elements in Richmond or in the media ever does pop off, that kind of “preparation” will put progressives at a dangerous disadvantage. It was reported that members of the John Brown Gun Club and/or Redneck Revolt participated as individuals in the mainstream gun rally for exactly this reason: people in social groups subject to hate crimes and roundups need their weapons. There were signs denouncing gun bans as racist and as dangerous to transgender folks. For trans sex workers, being able to carry a gun without fear of arrest for it would go a long way to get control of the extreme risk of being murdered they face, a risk possibly more than that faced by any other social group in the so-called “United States.”
The man here with the rifle gave an interview about possible civil war in the US to a number of media outlets
Huge numbers of people opposing proposed Va gun laws queued up to get into the main rally’s fenced-off “protest pit”
Many progressives and anti-capitalists also oppose gun laws, which are disproportionalty used to lock up people of color. Here in DC is a notorious example of such laws and incarceration
“Gun Rights are Trans Rights” sign refers to need for effective defense against extreme murder risk faced by transgender folks
On the other hand, Jovi Val and some of the Proud Boys showed up spewing hate-in defiance of organizer’s demands that they stay away
This particular militia directly threatened an Indymedia reporter, and reportedly threatened other people as well.
Trump supporters were everywhere-but found themselves unable to get the crowds to take up their pro-Trump chants
This drone was operated in defiance of an FAA drone ban driven by fears of weaponized drones. May have been a cop drone. Shooting it down would have risked a deadly crowd stampede, so if it was not a cop drone cops could do nothing