Will Antifa Be at the Virginia Gun Rally?

Getty The Virginia State Capitol is pictured on January 8, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia.

As people get ready to head to the Virginia State Capitol for a pro-gun rally on Monday, January 20, some have expressed concern about whether or not Antifa is attending the event. Local groups have said that they do not plan to counter protest, and another local group has said that previous information stating they were marching with the rally was inaccurate. Here are the details.

Local Antifa Groups Will Not Counter-Protest

Richmond and Charlottesville Antifa groups have said publicly that they are not going to be staging official counter-protests during the pro-gun rally, The Guardian reported. They are advising supporters to not attend the rally at all.

Antifa groups said that concern about violence, coupled with their own disapproval from some of the gun control measures have prompted their decision not to counter-protest.

Molly Conger, an activist, tweeted: “there is no counter demonstration planned for the january 20 convergence of armed militias on virginia’s capitol. please, please encourage anyone you know who is thinking about counter protesting this event to stay away from downtown richmond on monday.” (sic)

Richmond Police, an anti-fascist Twitter account, tweeted: “I’ve gotten a lot of DMs from people asking about joining up for protests on Monday. All I can say at this point is don’t. There won’t be conventional protests held by local anti-fascist groups that I know of. The city will not be safe for wandering around. Just stay safe.”

Antifa Seven Hills Said an Article that Claimed They  Were Marching with the Rally Was Misleading

Meanwhile, Vice published an article that said Antifa Seven Hills would be marching with the rally. That group has said the story was misleading. They published a statement that you can read in full here. The group also opposes the gun control legislation that the VCDL is lobbying against. But they said they aren’t marching with any extremist groups that might try to insert themselves into the event, which is being organized by a peaceful group. Here are some highlights.

Many folks have read this (Vice) article, or possibly just the headline, and come to the conclusion that we are choosing to march with Neo-Nazis and Klansmen on Monday. This was and never will be the case. We are forever in opposition to these groups…

It is our group’s stated mission to keep these groups from having footholds in Richmond and beyond. There are many racists and fascists planning on attending ‘2A lobby day rally’ on January 20th, at a steadily increasing rate since this bill emerged in November. We anticipated their efforts to recruit from the 2A movement, as has already been happening, and saw this as an important point to intervene since we oppose this legislation…

…We recognized that the VCDL was drawing lines in the sand on optics, and trying to distance themselves from other issues and symbols like the Confederate battle flag. As the event gained traction, it was clear from sources like 4chan, Reddit, Facebook and others that there were a range of dispositions, but that open fascists were largely not wanted…

We made a decision in the very beginning that we did not want to be fulfilling the trope expected by either side. … Yet are committed to keeping our community safe, to the best of our abilities… there are many not represented who want to retain the tools for self-defense without a greater risk, or pretense for state repression as much of this legislation seeks to do… We felt it important to signal to others who do not fit cleanly into the polarization that is happening…

We never indicated we were attending as a group, nor did we make any call to action for folks to engage in the way that is being purported. We have monitored this situation closely for weeks and found it to be increasingly dangerous… We never announced what capacity we planned on attending and wouldn’t readily make statements like that for an extremely tense situation where the terrain changes daily. We certainly never said we would march with the far right, nor did we ever say we would march at all. These points are conjecture and misinterpretation that follow the same narrative polarization we have been working against.”

You can read their statement in full at this link.

On a Facebook post, they reiterated that Antifa was not busing people into the event either.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League Is Hosting the Rally & Wants the Event To Be Peaceful

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) is organizing the pro-gun rally at the Virginia state capitol on Monday, January 20, 2020.  It’s called a gun rights “Lobby Day.”They want the event to be about lobbying and do not condone violence of any kind. The group is also not associated with neo-Nazis or white supremacists.

According to the VCDL’s FAQ page:

Monday, January 20, is VCDL’s Lobby Day.  It is not VCDL’s Protest Day. … VCDL Lobby Day is a peaceful event about gun rights and NOTHING ELSE. We are NOT there to have arguments with the other side.  They lobby, we lobby, and never the two shall meet. Just ignore them. And we are not there to push any other agenda.  Our total focus is on protecting our right to keep and bear arms.  Period. This is not about flags, statues, history, etc. Just guns. If you somehow find yourself being harassed by the other side, don’t engage them.  They could well be baiting you and recording what you do for propaganda purposes. If necessary, go find a police officer and let them take care of the person causing the disturbance.  Otherwise, just ignore them and go about your business.”

Gov. Northam declared a state of emergency and banned “weapons of any kind” from the Capitol grounds, with the ban lasting through 5 p.m. on the evening of January 21, the day after the rally, WCYB reported.

A number of groups are planning to attend the rally on Monday. Oath Keepers and Three Percenters have said they will travel to the event to participate. The VCDL turned down offers from militia groups to provide security, but said they can attend the rally itself as participants.

Three members of a group called The Base were arrested on Thursday, The New York Times reported. They had weapons and were talking about traveling to Richmond, Virginia for the rally. They were not involved in organizing or leading Monday’s rally in any way, but had talked about wanting to attend. Patrik J. Mathews, one of the men arrested, had entered the U.S. illegally from Canada. The two others arrested were Brian M. Lemley Jr. and William G. Bilbrough IV. The men had more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition, an assault rifle, and had vests that could hold body armor. They had discussed attending Monday’s rally, according to officials.

The Twitter account called “Richmond Police,” whose bio reads “Cops are gun violence,” also points out that the rally is being led by a peaceful group and some not-so-peaceful groups are trying to hijack the event. The account wrote in a series of tweets: “The rally scheduled for 1/20/2020 in Richmond, Va is a recurring event held whole laws are being voted on in the Virginia Capitol. This event is hosted by @VCDL_ORG. While there are certainly many confederate sympathizing participants in this gathering, a lot of the members are suburban and rural blue collar workers with a majority that lean to the right, but would never fall into the category of being in a hate group. They’re gathering to lobby against gun laws, a very divisive topic each year it comes up. With the Democratic majority currently in Virginia, the chances of gun laws passing is a lot higher. … I suggested earlier that anti-fascists groups from Richmond won’t be holding conventional protests like we’ve seen recently at fascist events across America. That is because of the lack of clarity surrounding this event. Should another fascist rally happen, you can be damn sure we’ll be there. But this isn’t that.”