Virginia law permits people with licensed firearms to carry guns openly. At the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville a year ago this weekend, many neo-Nazis and white nationalists, among others, were armed and many came with shields to protect themselves.
The Unite the Right 2 rally set for Sunday, that will include the former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke among attendees according to official documents, is not being held in Charlottesville; UTR organizers were denied a permit for their white supremacist march.
Instead, organizer Jason Kessler applied for a permit with the National Park Service to hold the “parade” as it is described in the permit request.
Kessler calls it a “civil rights demonstration.”
According to the permit, the UTR 2 rally is supposed to have just 200 to 300 demonstrators. But as has been reported, up to 1,000 counter-demonstraters are expected to show up at Sunday’s rally. And United Against Hate also secured a permit from the NPS. As of Thursday, at least two other groups had applied for permits; the status of those applications is not clear.
NBC reported D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham said “officers will do whatever is necessary to keep Unite the Right rally attendees separate from counterdemonstrators.”
What is clear is that unlike Charlottesville, they white nationalists cannot be armed.
Washington D.C. has among the tightest gun laws in the nation. The nation’s capital does not allow open carry and though it does allow conceal carry for licensed individuals, it does not allow that use within 1,000 feet of a protest or, in this case, rally or, as it reads on the permit, a “parade.” People are also prohibited from carrying a variety of other weapons including some knives.
Newsham said his department, U.S. Park Police, and the Secret Service will be policing the rally, adding his whole department is “engaged to make sure that we handle this.”
In a press conference, Newsham said, “We handle this type of thing in the District of Columbia probably better than any police department in the country. We intend for these folks to come to express their First Amendment rights and to leave without incident.”
And if there was any confusion about whether one can carry a gun while at, or near, the white supremacist protest, Newsham made it clear:
“Even if you have a permit to carry a firearm in D.C. you will not be allowed to carry that firearm into the District Sunday.”
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