Tensions Build as Gun-Rights Rally Nears

Sen. Amanda Chase

by James A. Bacon

The gears are moving for the Second Amendment rally at the state Capitol scheduled for tomorrow. Buses are loading up with protesters. Law enforcement authorities are planning their crowd-control measures. Despite professions of everyone in charge that they want the event to take place peacefully, there are many disquieting signs. The most disturbing indicator, of course, was the arrest of three far-right extremists Thursday on allegations that they were planning to instigate violence.

But gun-rights sympathizers are arguing that Governor Ralph Northam is going to excessive lengths to maintain security. Not only has he prohibited protesters from carrying weapons on the Capitol grounds, they say security forces have erected heavy fencing around the Capitol and plan to limit admission to the area through a single entrance.

The gun-rights crowd is not responding well. State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has suggested on her Facebook page that protesters are “being set up.” With the assistance of the media, she said, Northam has laid the groundwork “to make the entire movement look like insurrection.”

If people show up wearing any kind of uniform, patch or other symbol on their clothing signifying they belong to a militia and something goes wrong you could/will be held as a domestic terrorist. If anyone steps out of line, all it takes is one person, it may even be a government plant. … If that plant does anything to disrupt the rally, you would/will be arrested as a domestic terrorist.

They have labeled us as potential domestic terrorists for a long time now. Anyone who has ever related to the 3%ers, a militia, or just belonged to any Patriot group … the groundwork has been laid to brand you as a domestic terrorist.

Chase offered no evidence to support concerns regarding the existence of “government plants” or a plot to make the rally “look like insurrection.” If she has proof to back up her statements, let’s see it. Otherwise, this is astonishingly irresponsible rhetoric coming from a state senator.

But she’s not alone. Sundance, a popular columnist on the widely read conservative Breitbart website, strung together a series of loosely related data points — a “remarkable confluence of events” — to suggest that “something is going to take place. What that ‘something’ might be is yet unknown.”

Read the comments to the Sundance post, and you’ll see a conspiratorial mindset among the commenters. “This is such an obvious trap,” says one. “This allows them to identify those that will fight against them.” Says another: “Note the exits are all in one corner area meaning the Democrats intentionally are driving the groups together to foment a riot. … Beware of any ambush set by KKK Blackface Northam.”

Northam and many others are worried about a repeat of the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally that ended in tragedy. Regarding that parallel, however, there are three points worth making. First, there is no indication that leftist groups are organizing a counter-protest in Richmond. Violence flared in Charlottesville when rightist extremists clashed with leftist extremists. That combustible element is missing. Second, the violence in Charlottesville occurred due to the failure of law enforcement authorities to keep the antagonistic groups separated. Presumably, law enforcement authorities have learned from their mistakes. Third, for all the fears of a repeat, none of the Charlottesville violence was gun-related. So, yeah, Charlottesville was a traumatic event that Virginians don’t want to see repeated, but it’s a flawed analogy, and handling the gun-rights rally in Richmond as if it might be “another Charlottesville” makes no sense. The dynamics are very different.

(Update: An article in the Daily Mail says “Anti-fascist protesters plan to descend on the town as opposition,” but provides no supporting evidence for the assertion.

Update: The Guardian reports that anti-fascists will not mount a counter-protest at the rally. The anti-fascist groups cited threats of violence and their own opposition to some gun control.)

The conservative groups gathering in Richmond aren’t coming prepared for a rumble with Antifa and other leftist groups. The overwhelming majority want to engage in peaceful protest. The greatest danger, which I fear that Northam may not appreciate, stems from the fact that gun-rights militants feel totally alienated from the power structure. After nearly three years of unfounded Russia-Trump collusion hysteria, a fizzled Muller investigation, OIG revelations of FBI abuses in FISA applications, day-after-day of “bombshell” stories in the Mainstream Media about walls closing in on Trump, and now the Trump impeachment, these people are thoroughly convinced (not without reason) that there is such as thing as a “Deep State,” that the integrity of FBI and national security apparatus has been compromised, and that, driven by hatred, Democrats and Mainstream Media do want to overturn the 2016 election. The national media has squandered whatever right it once had to be trusted, and indeed the protesters trust nothing the media says.

That said, gun-rights activists are not well served by the inflammatory conjectures of social-media pundits and elected officials like Amanda Chase. And it doesn’t when El Presidente himself tweets, “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.”

There is a risk that far-right extremists will provoke violence, and law enforcement authorities do need to take proactive action to shut them down. But think about it a minute. Are right-wingers who support gun rights going to start firing upon the crowd… of fellow gun-rights advocates? Does that make any sense at all? I don’t follow, and the gun-protesters probably see the illogic in the reasoning as well.

Here’s a different scenario: Gun rights advocates get into an altercation with law enforcement authorities, both of whom are primed to expect the worst of each other. What if Chase proves to be prophetic? What if a handful of protesters wear the wrong insignia and are arrested as domestic terrorists? How might a crowd of tens of thousands respond to that? What precautions has law-enforcement taken to prevent such an outcome?

As I’ve blogged before, Northam is in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t position regarding the prevention of violence tomorrow. I don’t envy his position (and I certainly don’t think he is conspiring to foment an incident to portray gun-rights backers as insurrectionists). But I do worry that, trapped in a no-more-Charlottesvilles paradigm, he and/or his law enforcement advisers are drawing the wrong lessons and that their crowd-control tactics might provoke the very violence they seek to avoid.

I wish Northam would do a better job of communicating his thinking to the public. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow if he made the right call. I’m glad I’m not in his shoes.

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18 responses to “Tensions Build as Gun-Rights Rally Nears

  1. Or it could all go just fine. There is nothing quite as crazy as Internet crazy. It is the sheer size of the potential gathering that is the most amazing thing, an RIR Nascar event size crowd trying to cram onto and around Capitol Square with no place to park. Parking decks normally open are closing, street parking is being prevented, I don’t think I could even maneuver to my usual parking space. I feel very sorry for the other groups, unrelated, who always use that holiday for their lobby effort.

    The organizers certainly understand better than anybody that any incident, no matter how it starts, will reflect badly on them and their cause. Chase? Well, no comment.

    • re: Lobby Day – done a few of them – It was clear that legislators had put on a different face than they do other days when they are dealing with lobbyists! Can’t quite put my finger on it but by cynicism antenna “alterted”… way too much glad handing…….

      In committee/sub-committees – members were pretty brutal about speaking. If they had heard what you were saying before – it was “sit down”. If you “blathered” , it was “sit the hell down NOW”! It was like the “hook” back in vaudeville. 😉

  2. I don’t think anyone expects gun rights folks to fire on each other. I’m pretty sure the fear is that a politician or law enforcement officer will get shot.

    The rhetoric of right wing sites (this very post included, honestly have you no restraint?) has whipped up a lot of people into believing that a democratically elected assembly acting on the wishes of the public (by enacting measures that have survived constitutional scrutiny in other states and are popular with the pubic) is tyranny. The patriotic claptrap that has ruined our society demands that we fight tyranny, imaginary or real. For a lot of people, a good American is expected to shoot Northam.

    I was in Charlottesville. Guns weren’t a problem there (though there was the fear that so many armed people could result in rapidly escalating violence). The same fences went up. The same crowd control was in place (around the protest area, not all over downtown of course).

    The course of history tells us that the “next Charlottesville” will be a bigger event ( like open fire on the Capitol grounds). It isn’t alarmist to take threats seriously.

  3. Just one question … Why do gun right advocates need to bring their guns in order to advocate for their rights in the GA building? If they weren’t bringing guns the threat level would go way down.
    I have read that law enforcement has taken the criticism about the way CVille was handled and are making an effort that they have coordinated and practiced for. That is good and necessary as long as people are ginning up the issue on- line.
    Hope the day remains non-violent … I am not convinced it will.

    • re: ” Hope the day remains non-violent … I am not convinced it will.”

      It’s in the interests of the major gun groups that it remain non-violent. If it gets out of hand, they’re gonna get tarred and associated with the wackadoodles.

      If they make it clear to the police that they are NOT associated in any way with the fringe folks – they’ll gain credibility and respect.

      we’ll see if the bad angel out-shouts the good one.

  4. Jim Bacon notes, “Second, the violence in Charlottesville occurred due to the failure of law enforcement authorities to keep the antagonistic groups separated.” He pointed out, “Gun rights sympathizers … say security forces have erected heavy fencing around the Capitol and plan to limit admission to the area through a single entrance.”
    They were correct.

    VACapitol2020 @VACapitol2020, https://twitter.com/VACapitol2020 on January 16: “If you are planning to attend Lobby Day on Monday, here is a look at the entrance & exits for Capitol Square. Visitors will be screened at the entrance at 9th Street & East Grace Street. This is also an exit. Three additional exits are near the corner of 9th Street & Bank Street.”

    What could possibly go wrong with thousands of people channeled into one combined entrance and exit point? Does anyone really believe anti-gun or Antifa supporters or extremists of some nature looking for a confrontation won’t show up?

  5. 2020 version of 1976 trucker protest portrayed in the song (and movie) “Convoy” (How A Trucker’s Protest Anthem Became A ’70s Hit).

    lyrics:

    Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
    In a Kenworth pullin’ logs
    Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
    And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs
    We is headin’ for bear on I-one-oh
    ‘Bout a mile outta Shaky Town
    I says, “Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck.
    “And I’m about to put the hammer down.”
    ‘Cause we got a little convoy
    Rockin’ through the night.
    Yeah, we got a little convoy,
    Ain’t she a beautiful sight?
    Come on and join our convoy
    Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.
    We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
    ‘Cross the U-S-A.
    Convoy!
    By the time we got into Tulsa Town,
    We had eighty-five trucks in all.
    But they’s a roadblock up on the cloverleaf,
    And them bears was wall-to-wall.
    Yeah, them smokies is thick as bugs on a bumper;
    They even had a bear in the air!
    I says, “Callin’ all trucks, this here’s the Duck.
    “We about to go a-huntin’ bear.”
    ‘Cause we got a little convoy
    Rockin’ through the night.
    Yeah, we got a little convoy,
    Ain’t she a beautiful sight?
    Come on and join our convoy
    Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.
    We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
    ‘Cross the U-S-A.
    Convoy!
    Well, we rolled up Interstate 44
    Like a rocket sled on rails.
    We tore up all of our swindle sheets,
    And left ’em settin’ on the scales.
    By the time we hit that Chi-town,
    Them bears was a-gettin’ smart:
    They’d brought up some reinforcements
    From the Illinois National Guard.
    There’s armored cars, and tanks, and jeeps,
    And rigs of ev’ry size.
    Yeah, them chicken coops was full’a bears
    And choppers filled the skies.
    Well, we shot the line and we went for broke
    With a thousand screamin’ trucks
    An’ eleven long-haired Friends a’ Jesus
    In a chartreuse micra-bus.
    Well, we laid a strip for the Jersey shore
    And prepared to cross the line
    I could see the bridge was lined with bears
    But I didn’t have a dog-goned dime.
    I says, “Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck.
    “We just ain’t a-gonna pay no toll.”
    So we crashed the gate doing ninety-eight
    I says “Let them truckers roll, 10-4.”
    ‘Cause we got a little convoy
    Rockin’ through the night.
    Yeah, we got a little convoy,
    Ain’t she a beautiful sight?
    Come on and join our convoy
    Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.
    We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
    ‘Cross the U-S-A.
    Convoy!

    so the CB radio was the forerunner of Social Media!

    same folks, lose the CBs, add the guns…..

  6. “An annual 2nd Amendment rally in Richmond, Va. scheduled for this Monday will see gun rights activists marching alonside an unusual ally: the local Antifa chapter.

    While Antifa groups are most famous for sometimes-violent protests against right-wing groups, the Richmond-based Antifa Seven Hills is joining 2nd Amendment supporters in support of gun rights.

    “I think it’s been pretty important for us to focus on the fact that gun control in America has a legacy of racist enforcement,” Seven Hills spokesperson James told Vice, requesting that his last name be withheld from publication. “Like taking guns away from black people, because black people were perceived as a threat to property and the sanctity of the state.”

  7. Jim Bacon said this:

    “The greatest danger, which I fear that Northam may not appreciate, stems from the fact that gun-rights militants feel totally alienated from the power structure.
    After nearly three years of unfounded Russia-Trump collusion hysteria,
    a fizzled Muller (Sic) investigation,
    OIG revelations of FBI abuses in FISA applications,
    day-after-day of “bombshell” stories in the Mainstream Media about walls closing in on Trump,
    and now the Trump impeachment,
    these people are thoroughly convinced (not without reason) that there is such as thing as a “Deep State,”
    that the integrity of FBI and national security apparatus has been compromised,
    and that, driven by hatred,
    Democrats and Mainstream Media do want to overturn the 2016 election.
    The national media has squandered whatever right it once had to be trusted, and indeed the protesters trust nothing the media says.”

    You may want to try to back up that inflammatory set of claims with some facts. Or better yet, you may want to look in the mirror if you actually believe any of what you wrote.

    The only claim from that quote, that has any basis in fact, is the OIG report on abuse of FISA warrants.

    Why is it such a “great danger” that “gun rights militants” (militants!) feel “totally alienated” from the power structure? Is it because Virginia voters have chosen and changed to a party that is going to take action concerning the buying and selling of guns? Why would a democratic election make citizens feel alienated? And, why would it be a “great danger?”

    Why do your sensational claims about Trump, the Mueller investigation, the MSM, and Trump’s impeachment have anything to do with Virginia’s election and party in power? Connect the dots please. Because if you believe that which you have written, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  8. Jim Loving:

    I think you and others make too much of the results of the election (the change from Republican to Democratic). 2 seats changed hands in the Senate out of 40, two in the house out of 100. Does that really reflect a momentous shift in the feelings of the Virginia electorate? Maybe not so much.

    As usual, the Democrats are overreaching, putting 12 or whatever number of gun bills in the legislative hopper. They did not read the tea leaves properly. Had they bothered to count noses, they could have put in the background check’s’s bill, gotten the two Republicans who said they would vote for it, declare “bipartisan” victory and gone home with a win without offending very many folks. Yeh, the right-wing nuts would have screamed, but sensible people would have been fine. Instead, they insisted on sticking everyone’s nose in it, to the extent that there are signs in my fairly reasonable neighborhood saying how the government is going to take away your guns.

    What I’m amazed at is your demand for dots connection between Jim’s recitation of what is happening in Washington and the election in Virginia. The very thought that you demand strict proof reflects the problem that your side of argument faces in the future.

    On the other hand, it may be a great strategy for the state Democrats to crash through as much as they can, following the Pelosi/Obama playbook in 2008-2010. They may get an awful lot of what they want, but I believe it will be devastating for the future of the state. You don’t get 10,000 people (some predict 50,000, but they tend to be from NRA organizer types) showing up at the Capitol versus previous years, take the actions proposed by the Democrats, and walk away with very much other than seriously and unnecessarukt increased discord in the state.

    In previous years, gun control advocates like Moms Demand Action wore bright red T-shirts, a common protester tactic to make it appear there are more said protesters than meets the eye. I’m going to be interested in the percentage of gun rights advocates using such tactics this go-round. I think it will give us insight into the real feelings of Virginians if there is a high percentage of gun rights protesters who show up without a bunch of premade signs or a particular kind of clothing.

    Then there’s the 100 or so local councils who have declared their localities to be Second Amendment sanctuaries. The Attorney General says the declarations are of no legal effect, and he’s probably right. But neither were the immigrant sanctuary city declarations across the country, and we know what has happened in those instances.

    • CrazyJD …. Three issues with your post …

      I am not sure how you will have “insight into the real feelings of Virginians” from the Monday protests. Like CVille, buses are coming from all over and VA citizens may only be a small part of the crowd. I’m sure you have seen that “three White Nationalists were arrested in Maryland who were allegedly planning to attend this gun rally in Richmond, and three more White Nationalists were arrested in Georgia who were also allegedly planning to attend this gun rally in Richmond. All of these people were allegedly members of an accelerationist group called “The Base” which is being targeted by the FBI and DOJ.

      You also say the Dems are overreaching and “Had they bothered to count noses, they could have put in the background checks bill” by itself, but the truth is the country is in favor of gun restrictions by a wide margin, and so is VA. Here are the results of a Dec poll taken in VA by Christopher Newport University.
      “Voters strongly support requiring background checks on all gun sales, 86% to 13%, and passing a ‘red flag’ law to remove guns from someone who may harm someone, 73% to 23%, according to the poll results. A slight majority, 54% to 44%, support banning assault-style weapons.”

      Finally, Sanctuary cities may have fanned the flames of tribalism, but they are a very different legal animal than what is happening in VA. Virginia Counties are vowing to resist any attempt to tighten gun restrictions. The AG has said the ‘Resolutions’ have no effect. They are not law.

      Sanctuary Cities on the other hand didn’t stop the federal government from enforcing laws against illegal immigrants. They simply said that they would not require their local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration agents. They had a set of ‘community policing’ reasons for not cooperating.
      CA actually passed a law and a federal Court ruled in favor of the law. “U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, in rejecting the position of the Trump administration that California’s law is an attempt to stymie immigration enforcement, wrote that “refusing to help is not the same as impeding.”

      That is very different from saying they will not abide by a law, which seems to be what the VA Resolutions are saying.

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  10. I believe Monday morning temperatures will be in the 20s and the high for the day is 37 degrees. The 10 worst riots in US History never happened in January. Something about the summertime enhances the need to blow off steam. We might just be alright tomorrow. The bad guys hate cold weather. My hope is that tomorrow demonstrates how great Virginians can be.

  11. After nearly three years of unfounded Russia-Trump collusion hysteria, a fizzled Muller investigation, OIG revelations of FBI abuses in FISA applications, day-after-day of “bombshell” stories in the Mainstream Media about walls closing in on Trump, and now the Trump impeachment, these people are thoroughly convinced (not without reason) that there is such as thing as a “Deep State,” that the integrity of FBI and national security apparatus has been compromised, and that, driven by hatred, Democrats and Mainstream Media do want to overturn the 2016 election. The national media has squandered whatever right it once had to be trusted, and indeed the protesters trust nothing the media says.

    This is nuts. ALL of our security agencies have found Russian interference with the 2016 election. I actually read the Mueller report and counted something like 10 instances of obstruction of justice. Besides this, Trump has been through aide after aide after aide and has said incredibly stupid things such as there is no border between China and India. His presidency has been insanity and some gun-toter feels ALIENATED? ,

  12. It’s not only NUTS, it’s laughable that Trump supporters and their brethren who pose as _not_ but claim to be Conservatives – have this mythology about this by a combination of willful ignorance, head in the sand, and this foolishness about “undoing” the election.

    By DEFINITION – ANY impeachment is exactly that.

    It boggles the mind the inane logic coming from so-called “conservatives” these days.

    They basically do not listen to voters even with polls show 70, 80% – it’s all about what they believe and think should be the way things are – even if they have to dictate to the electorate.

    Crazy is right. Dems are likely overreaching and a reckoning is likey in the cards at next election.

    But make no mistake – when it comes to things like health care, guns, immigration, the environment, and election rules , etc – the GOP is never going to have a majority as long as they hold their own beliefs higher than what the voters want.

    That’s the longer term reckoning for the GOP.

  13. Here we are at 3 pm. The buses are all rolling home. Anybody want to pull the stick out of their %$#? Worked out just fine, point made, everybody safe. The bill that really started the ruckus, Saslaw’s SB 16, has been dead for days…..and it will be colder than this in Hell before I listen to political advice from Larry….

    Still glad I opted not to fight the crowds. I could get used to not going down there. Gonna have to stop sometime….

  14. Looks like northam made the right call

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