Annual pro-gun event at Virginia fizzles in wake of U.S. Capitol siege

By midday, Lobby Day - which gives voters an opportunity to petition state lawmakers on any issue - had drawn fewer than 50 pro-gun rights protesters, many from the far-right Proud Boys and the anti-government boogaloo movement who were openly carrying semi-automatic weapons. “Welcome to the biggest non-event of 2021,” said one of a small group of men that included Philip Van Cleave, leader of Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a pro-gun advocacy group that organized a caravan of demonstrators to drive through the capital on Monday.

Reuters | Updated: 19-01-2021 01:09 IST | Created: 19-01-2021 01:09 IST
Annual pro-gun event at Virginia fizzles in wake of U.S. Capitol siege

Only a few dozen gun-rights activists converged on the Virginia state capital on Monday for an annual demonstration that typically draws thousands, with this year's protests dampened by tensions in the wake of the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol. The annual "Lobby Day" gathering had put authorities on high alert in Richmond, about 110 miles (175 km) south of Washington, D.C., where Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in on Wednesday, replacing Republican President Donald Trump, an outspoken defender of gun rights.

Lobby Day in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, always falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday honoring the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968. Until this year, Virginia also commemorated the birthdays of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson with a state holiday in January, but last year the state legislature passed a bill eliminating it. By midday, Lobby Day - which gives voters an opportunity to petition state lawmakers on any issue - had drawn fewer than 50 pro-gun rights protesters, many from the far-right Proud Boys and the anti-government boogaloo movement who were openly carrying semi-automatic weapons.

“Welcome to the biggest non-event of 2021,” said one of a small group of men that included Philip Van Cleave, leader of Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a pro-gun advocacy group that organized a caravan of demonstrators to drive through the capital on Monday. The demonstrators, including some who wore military fatigues, the boogaloos sporting their trademark Hawaiian shirts and the VCDL members dressed in business suits, were outnumbered by reporters.

“Yes, and that’s disgusting," said a man hawking Proud Boys shirts for $20 who refused to give his name. "It’s sad.” Police estimated last year's crowd at about 22,000 people at an event that was tense but peaceful.

This year, about 20 members of two Black self-defense groups - the Original Black Panthers of VA and Black Lives Matter 757 - demonstrated separately from the far-right protesters, standing about a block away from the statehouse. Windows were boarded up at the statehouse, and temporary fencing had been erected to block off the usual public entrance to the building. About 50 officers - a mix of Richmond police, Virginia state police, and Virginia Capitol police - patrolled the grounds and the area where protesters had gathered.

This year, Lobby Day is taking place in a highly polarized climate, after a year in which anti-racist and white nationalist demonstrators clashed across the United States, and as strident Trump supporters cling to hope he can remain in power. Nationwide, pro-Trump demonstrations on Sunday largely fizzled after the FBI issued warnings and several states deployed the National Guard.

"We're showing up to remind them that we're still here," a gun rights activist who identified himself only as Trevor, told Reuters outside the Virginia statehouse on Sunday evening, walking the perimeter to help plan the protest. Virginians traditionally petition their lawmakers on Lobby Day at the start of the state's General Assembly session, with the VCDL taking a leading role in recent years.

The VCDL's Van Cleave had predicted that demonstrators would come from as far away as New York and Texas. His group says it planned to petition state lawmakers to loosen gun curbs, as it had done during many Lobby Days in the past. "We've been doing this for 25 years," Van Cleve added. "We've never had a single problem. No arrests, nothing."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Addressing conflict-related sexual violence at long last

... ...

Why unequal access to coronavirus vaccines is a threat to us all

... ...

India’s love affair with fossil fuels: the path to sustainable development?

... ...

Videos

Latest News

Pak PM Imran bats for electoral reforms for fair elections; to introduce EVMs

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday that his government will introduce electoral reforms and electronic voting machines to ensure fair and transparent elections in the country.Delivering a speech after winning a trust vote i...

Google to speed up Chrome's release cycle to four weeks

Google is working on speeding up the release cycle of Chrome updates to four weeks from the current six-week period in order to improve the security, speed, and stability of the browser application. As per The Verge, starting with Chrome 94...

6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland

A bus carrying dozens of Ukrainian citizens rolled off an embankment into a ditch in Poland, killing six people and injuring 41, Polish media reported on Saturday.The accident occurred around midnight on the A4 motorway near the town of Jar...

Effortless nonchalance: Rishabh Pant on reverse flicking pacers, making commentators look dull

He has got everyone excited but Rishabh Pant was nonchalance personified as he picked up the man of the match honours for his brilliant hundred in the fourth and final Test against England here on Saturday.Pants 101 off 118 balls, during wh...

Give Feedback