by James A. Bacon
Twenty-two thousand armed citizens packed the streets of downtown Richmond yesterday, and not one shot was fired. No one was killed. No one was injured. There was only one arrest — of a 21-year-old woman who refused, in violation of a prohibition against masks, to remove a bandana from her face. And she, most likely, was of the leftist persuasion. As the Virginia Mercury quotes her male companion, “Way to keep our city safe, guys, while there’s fuckin’ Nazis and terrorists around here.”
After hyping fears that far-right extremists might create mayhem, the mainstream media heaved a collective sigh of relief. Some headlines:
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Gun-Rights Rally Draws 22,000 to Capitol; No Violence.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “No Violence as Thousands with Firearms Gathered
Washington Post: Weapons, Flags, No Violence: Massive Pro-Gun Rally in Virginia Capitol.”
Associated Press: “Pro-Gun Rally by Thousands in Richmond Ends Peacefully.”
Urban journalists and other progressives never cease to be amazed when law-abiding rural rustics with guns are, well… law-abiding. The media — especially the Washington Post — had fanned fears that the event would be disrupted by armed militias, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The Winchester Star headline best caught the spirit of the rally: “Local gun rally participant: ‘For a short period, Richmond was the safest city in Virginia — maybe the nation.'”
As a matter of fact, the Richmond Police Department reported only 24 crimes across the entire city on Jan. 20, none of them violent. That was down from 76 crimes reported the day before (including 12 assaults); 77 crimes (including 10 assaults) the day before that, and 96 crimes (including 8 assaults) the day before that. Coincidence? You be the judge.
Then there was this kicker from USA Today. While the media played up the parallels between the gun rights rally and the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer when a neo-Nazi ran his car into a crowd, Heather Heyer’s mother Susan Bro said she owns a gun and grew up around guns. She supports some of the legislation under under consideration by the General Assembly but thinks some proposals are “a bit extreme.” Said she: “I believe in common-sense gun measures but not extreme measures.”
As I noted yesterday, the parallels drawn by the media between the Charlottesville event and the Richmond rally were superficial and misleading. Yes, it is true that the FBI arrested three white supremacists from up north (including one Canadian in the country illegally) on allegations that they planned violence, so the fears were not totally groundless. But they were wildly exaggerated. The media coverage leading up to the rally was more a reflection of the fevered imaginations of progressive urban journalists and their stereotypes of rural gun-rights advocates than reality. But, then, that’s nothing we didn’t know before.
It’s only fair to add that the fears of some gun-rights advocates were equally groundless. Contrary to the ravings of Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, that rally goers were being “set up” by the Northam administration and that Northam had laid the groundwork “to make the entire movement look like insurrection,” law enforcement authorities handled the situation flawlessly. Northam may have over-reacted by declaring a state of emergency and prohibiting weapons from the Capitol grounds, but he decided to take no chances. In the end, he will be judged by the final result — no one was hurt. All’s well that ends well.
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