Heavily armed protesters in bullet proof vests descend on Richmond gun rally as Virginia governor declares a state of emergency and hundreds line up with their weapons to stand against Democrats’ proposed reform
- The rally drew thousands to Virginia’s Capitol on Monday after weeks of fervent anticipation
- Hundreds had already started lining up hours before the scheduled start, some with their weapons
- It began at 11am, with crowds pouring in to Capitol Square for the event , and was over before 1pm
- Protesters were not allowed to bring guns into the actual event and everyone is being screened
- There were speakers inside the event including prominent Republicans and heroes who have brought down gunmen at attempted mass shootings
- Militia bosses feared the protest could still turn violent despite the enormous police and security presence
- Six alleged neo-Nazis were arrested in the run-up to it and the FBI is still combing through threats
- Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Governor, declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the event
Tens of thousands of people converged in the streets of Richmond, Virginia, on Monday to protest their right to bear arms in the face of swingeing state gun control laws set to be enacted later this year.
They started arriving before dawn – army veterans, stay-at-home-moms, attorneys, welders, democrats, republicans – united under banners defending the second amendment and, they believe, a constitution under attack.
And many of them came with their guns: AR-15s, long-guns and handguns. Governor Ralph Northam had issued a ban on a list of weapons including guns on Capitol Grounds but though the official rally was confined to a steel pen in the grounds sloping up to Virginia State Capitol, there were more people outside that perimeter and outside the scope of the ban.
Security was tight and visible – hundreds of cops on the streets and in the grounds, screening lanes at the only entrance to the park, the rest of which had been fenced off.
On Monday morning, President Trump fanned the flames of the already simmering tensions by tweeting: ‘The Democrat Party in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia are working hard to take away your 2nd Amendment rights.
‘This is just the beginning. Don’t let it happen, VOTE REPUBLICAN in 2020!’
Demonstrators hold hands as they stand outside the rally proudly wearing their rifles, helmets and bullet proof vests
Protesters inside the Capitol Square wave flags and chant ‘USA’ while waiting for speakers. The weapons were all kept outside
Armed gun rights advocates line up outside Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday ahead of a rally organized by The Virginia Citizens Defense League. Tens of thousands are expected to attend the event and it is stoking fears of violence
Protester Brandon Lewis, who traveled from Buffalo, New York, proudly carrying a Barrett M82 rifle which can be used by the military to shoot down planes at Monday’s rally. The recoil-operated, semi-automatic anti-materiel sniper system is used in the military and was also a favorite weapon of the IRA. He said he brought such a large weapon ‘because he can’
There is an enormous police presence at the rally and all event attendees are being screened before they can enter the site – they will not be allowed to take their weapons into the protest area but many brought theirs and held them proudly as they stood on the outskirts of it
Protesters chanted ‘we will not comply’ as they flooded the streets of Richmond, Virginia, on Monday
‘It’s just rhetoric,’one observed. ‘What are those fences going to do against bullets? What difference does it make if the rifle is over here or in there?’
Trump appeared to egg on protesters ahead of the event with this tweet on Friday
Social media posts had told of convoys and militias traveling across states to Virginia to support their ‘brothers and sisters’ and they came in their hundreds.
The official rally, organized by pro-gun advocacy group, The Virginia Citizens Defense League, was slated to start at 8am and end at noon. It is an annual part of Lobby Day – just one event among others as citizens are given the chance to come to the Capitol and lobby on a variety of issues.
Trump tweeted on Monday morning to encourage the protesters
But this year gun control has eclipsed all others and outside Capitol walls brigades assembled. Some distinguished their own ‘soldiers’ from others with armbands made from yellow caution tape.
By 9.30 they had assembled in columns on East 9th Street to the east of the Capitol.
Heavily armed and in military uniform they had, they said, traveled from ‘out of state.’
One who spoke to DailyMail.com described himself simply as ‘former military and a concerned citizen.’
He said, ‘I deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. I bled repeatedly for this country.
Participants gather at the Virginia State Capitol grounds during a gun rights rally to protest proposed gun control laws on Monday, January 20, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia
Participants gather at the Virginia State Capitol grounds during a gun rights rally to protest proposed gun control laws
Participants gather at the Virginia State Capitol grounds during a gun rights rally to protest proposed gun control laws
Virginia State Police Officers stand in front of the State Capitol as protesters flood through the checkpoints
Inside the square, protesters held signs up and chanted. They were not allowed to bring their weapons in
Two armed militia who declined to be named stand guard outside the protest with their weapons
There are thousands of people bearing arms at the protest which has sparked fears that it may descend into violence
Armed militia who declined to be named stand outside Capitol Square with their weapons
Senator Amanda Chase was among those in attendance. A protester carrying a sign which reads in part ‘Gays for the 2nd amendment’
EXCLUSIVE – INFO WARS HOST ALEX JONES SAYS GOVERNOR TRIED TO INCITE A RIOT
Alex Jones has slammed security measures at the Richmond pro-gun rally calling them a ‘recipe for disaster’ and described it as a ‘miracle’ that no-one was injured in the event which drew tens of thousands to the city’s Capitol.
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com he said, ‘To have one entry point and one exit and put them in the same location…any security expert would tell you that’s a recipe for disaster.
‘It’s a miracle that nothing happened and that’s because it was conservatives and patriots.’
InfoWars host Alex Jones delivers supportive remarks to protesters at the rally on Monday morning
Asked if he believed the Governor Ralph Northam had deliberately set out to heighten the chance of stampede, the controversial radio-show host was adamant, ‘Absolutely.’
He added, ‘If this had been a leftist thing or a Mecca something would have happened.’
Jones arrived in the Virginian town Sunday night ahead of the rally that he claimed was ‘one of the best I’ve ever been at.’
He went onto accuse the governor of overseeing security measures that made for an ‘extremely dangerous’ situation by closing off all but one access point to the Capitol grounds.
He said, ‘Northam predicted death and destruction and it didn’t happen.’
Jones popped up through the sunroof of an armored tank he and his team had brought with them. He accused Virginia’s Democrat Governor, Ralph Northam, of inciting a civil war with his plans for gun control reform
After driving through the town with his megaphone, Jones joined protesters on the ground
‘I’m here to defend it again. We’re here to be the crowd the governor sees when he looks out of his window.’
These men were not there to give their names.
They were there to make a stand; a show of force, should it be needed.
‘We want to do things the peaceful way,’ one protester said. ‘And that’s what this is but it’s not the only way.’
The issue was contentious enough in this, General Robert E Lee’s home state, before President Trump tweeted on Friday afternoon: ‘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!’
The governor declared a state of emergency last week and the Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary flight restriction making it illegal to fly planes or drones above the city on Monday.
For Michelle Smelkinson, there with husband Ron and nineteen-year-old son Reagan (named after the president) the reasons for being there seemed self-evident.
She said, ‘Our governor is a monster and wants to turn us into New York and that’s not going to happen in Virginia.
‘We’re not killing babies and we won’t have our guns taken away.’
The Chesapeake family had dressed in Colonial uniforms that drew good-humored comments and praise.
‘We dressed like this because we’re patriots, traditionalists, defenders of our constitutional rights.’
John, from Massachusetts, hadn’t intended to go until the state of emergency was declared. That was the trigger for him. He said, ‘I’m here to stand with my fellow Americans. They’re trying to do here what they’ve already done to my state.
‘It’s amazing to be here surrounded by so many people carrying. It’s awesome.’
Former soldier Samson, who made the 8 hours trip to Virginia with John, said, ‘It’s refreshing to be surrounded by so many supporters. We brought first aid kits just in case.
‘You prepare for the worst in these situations but hope for the best. We don’t want trouble. This is a peaceful thing – we’re just defending what is a human right.’
Stay at home mom, Kim Orndorff, from Winchester, Virginia lined up at 4am to ‘stand up for the second amendment.’
A police officer searches a man before allowing him to enter the protest site on Monday morning. The frigid temperatures plunged to 25F
Members of an armed militia group stand outside the protest site next to Richmond police officers and Virginia State Police officer
A protester with an M82 rifle stands in front of an enormous flag which reads ‘Come and Take It’ – a taunt to Democrats seeking to impose tighter gun laws in the state
Masked gun rights activists carrying flags and signs at the rally on Monday
Gun rights activists chant during the rally on Monday and film the action on their cell phones
Brad Slaybaugh, (left), a dog trainer and founder of the Virginia Rising Pro-Gun Group, stands in front of the State Capital during the Lobby Day pro-gun rally and Christopher Davies (right), another pro-gun protester
Ron Smelkinson (right) with his son Reagan (middle) and wife Michelle (left)
John (left) who had traveled from Massachusetts and 18-year-old Eli, right, protest at the rally with flags
Registered Democrat Dave (left) – a former Marine and pro gun advocate – and his friend Phil (right) at the rally. They declined to give their full names
Samson, a military veteran, joins protesters at the rally. He declined to give his full name
Timothy Hatley holds a photograph of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in a photo of a man dressed in a KKK outfit with the words ‘the man behind the sheet wants your guns’. Northam admitted that he is in the image – that was taken in his 1984 yearbook – but he has never admitted which man he is
Protester who brought M82 rifle that the IRA used to use to Richmond rally
Brandon Lewis from Buffalo, NY, said told The Virginia Mercury: ‘This is kind of the first big movement for our times recently, so I thought it was important to be a part of it. ‘
He said he brought such an enormous weapon because it was the ‘point’ of ‘open carry’.
‘It’s kind of the point of open carry.
‘To show you can. It shows the government it’s not above us.’
The weapons can be bought online and in stores for around $8,000.
They are a US military weapon that the IRA smuggled into Ireland in the 1980s and used in some of their attacks.
Between 1992 and 1997, its snipers killed five soldiers and a constable using the weapons.
The blonde-haired lawyer by trade and other of three stood with her AR.15 across her chest.
She said, ‘I just think it’s insane that we could be suddenly criminals for something that is in our constitution – the right to bear arms.
‘I’m a peaceful person, I’m law abiding. I haven’t even had a speeding ticket!’
Fluorescent orange stickers proclaimed, ‘Guns Save Lives,’ from the hundreds of jackets on which they were stuck. Sporadic chants of, ‘USA! USA!’ broke out among the crowds.
One enterprising vendor had set up a stand selling Trump pins, hats and T-shirts. ‘Don’t be a Democrat. Get Yourself a Trump Hat!’ he chanted.
Brad Slaybaugh, a working dog trainer from Colonial Heights, had given up a day of shooting ducks to be at the Capitol today.
According to Slaybaugh, ‘The next challenge is to keep this passion going and turn it into votes. What we’re standing up for here is the American ideal and too many people have forgotten what that is.’
Slaybaugh established a facebook group Virginia Rising just ten weeks ago – designed to promote and defend the constitution as he sees it. One hundred and ten thousands people have already signed up to register their support.
Virginian marine veteran Dave, said of his reason for being there today, ‘I put my life on the line for this country for nine years. I’m a democrat and a lifelong NRA member.
‘It’s a damn horrible thing to put your life on the line for your country and come back home and have your politicians betray you and stab you in the back.’