Tens of thousands could gather in Richmond to oppose any new gun safety laws.
Organizers expect at least 30,000 people to show up next week for a pro-gun rally in Richmond, leading some to worry that the event could become the next Charlottesville.
Philip Van Cleave, the event’s lead organizer, tried to downplay any threats, saying the event is nothing more than a “lobby day” and pushed back against reports that his group was encouraging people to bring guns to the event.
But not all supporters of the rally have used such careful language. The right-wing YouTube user “American Joe Show” warned, without evidence, that the government would cut the power to deter protestors. And the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks extremist groups, says anti-government militias and white supremacist groups have “glommed on to” local efforts to oppose any new gun safety legislation.
Democrats have been clear in their plans to pass gun safety legislation under their new majority, leading to significant outcry from cnservative groups. In the past few months, cities and counties across Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” saying they will not enforce any new gun safety laws passed in the state.
Conservative websites like Liberty Nation have also spread misinformation about Democrats’ agendas, saying that Gov. Ralph Northam is planning for a “new team of anti-gun cops.” The governor, who has been consistently outspoken about the need for gun safety legislation, met with the state police for over two hours last week to review threats made against him.
Van Cleave himself has used divisive language in the past. At a rally in December he said a majority of gun violence was the result of “gangbangers killing gangbangers.” Politifact couldn’t find evidence backing that claim up and determined it was false.
And in an interview with the Washington Post earlier this month, Van Cleave said he hoped the rally would not be “another Charlottesville,” before blaming the police and government for any potential violence that could arise.