RICHMOND, Va.—Thousands of gun-rights demonstrators gathered here on Monday, many carrying military-style weapons, while officials hoped tight security would avoid any outbreaks of violence from extremist groups.
As the rally began, people continued to file into Capitol Square through airport-style security screening, while a larger crowd remained on the streets outside, where they were allowed to carry guns. Many people held American flags and banners that displayed firearms and read “come and take it.” People used loudspeakers to lead chants of “we will not comply” and “U.S.A.”
Uniformed police in fluorescent vests stood in a line in front of the capitol, and other police were positioned atop the capitol roof. We hear more in this report.
The rally was organised by the gun-rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League for Lobby Day, an annual event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day when residents and groups press legislators on issues. They expect an especially large crowd, including many from out of state, in response to state Democrats’ plans to pass a slate of gun-control bills.
“I like the turnout, I hope 100,000 people show up,” he said. “The intent is to change the mind of the governor and those folks. I’m afraid it’s not going to work, but it’s certainly what we’re hoping for.”“I’m here to stand with the people of Virginia to defend the Second Amendment,” said David Treibs, a 55-year-old from Texas, who had an AR-style pistol slung over his shoulder. He planned to stay outside the restricted area.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, imposed a ban on weapons in Capitol Square when he declared a state of emergency Wednesday, citing law-enforcement concerns about weaponized drones and armed militias storming the statehouse. Legal challenges from rally organisers failed to stop the governor’s temporary ban. A state legislative committee earlier banned firearms inside any building on Capitol Square and any building where lawmakers or their support staff have offices.
Mr. Northam, a Democrat, said law-enforcement officials are aware of credible threats of potential violence and extremism from out-of-state militia groups and hate groups. He said he is confident a majority of those attending will be peaceful.