Virginia: thousands of armed protesters rally against gun control bills

1 year ago
Tens of thousands of gun rights activists, many of them armed, gathered in Virginia’s capital on Monday as the governor declared a state of emergency ahead of a protest against strict new gun control laws pledged by the state’s freshly elected Democratic majority government. Chanting “We will not comply”, gun rights activists packed the street in front of the Virginia’s state house, where the governor, Ralph Northam, had temporarily banned anyone from carrying firearms. On the streets outside, though, some protesters carried rifles and wore full tactical gear. One protester estimated that as many as 70% of the crowd was armed, most of them more discreetly, with concealed handguns. Police estimated that 22,000 people attended the rally, most of them in the streets outside the state house, where guns were allowed. Virginia’s politicians had braced for potential violence at the state house, with some raising fears that the gun rights rally could turn violent, like the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Instead, Monday’s rally was crowded but calm, with members of militia groups and violent far-right groups such as the Proud Boys strolling the streets, but no counter-protesters in sight. In part because of the expected presence of thousands of Virginians who had no affiliation with hate groups, local anti-fascist activists had announced days before the rally that there would be no counter-protests. One person was arrested, for wearing a mask in public, police said. The single arrest raised questions, since many protesters in the streets outside the rally had worn masks. “I was kind of scared it would keep the turnout low,” Jacob Taylor, 33, a Virginia resident, said, describing the conspiracy theories and fears of violence that had circulated before the event. He said he had turned out to the protest, his first ever political rally, because “I don’t want what I thought to be false rhetoric to keep people from coming”. Taylor said that, as a gun ow

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