For well over a decade, the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League has been hosting a lobby day in Richmond during the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday. This year’s rally is particularly notable, falling in the midst of state lawmakers’ increasingly strident attempts to curtail gun rights in the Commonwealth, and growing public outcry from firearm owners. Set against such a background, numbers are expected to be particularly high, with attendees busing in from far and wide. However, the organized opportunity for members of the gun rights advocacy organization has been stripped away by Virginia Capitol Police and Governor Ralph Northam (D). State officials locked down the public square at the Capitol complex at the last minute, and with almost no communication to event organizers. By doing so, the governor has succeeded in demonizing these Virginians, and frustrating their efforts to quite simply lobby their legislators.
Win-Win for Northam
On Sunday, Jan 19, Liberty Nation caught up with Philip Van Cleave, President of the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League*, who is hosting the event. “We’ve done this since 2003, and everyone has been peaceful, never had a single problem in all those years,” he said. “This is about us communicating to legislators about an issue that is important to us. That’s all it’s about. It’s a rally, not a protest.” It won’t be much of a rally if Northam has his way.
“Law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.” With that lead-in, Governor Northam engineered a political win for himself and other Democrats who wish to demonize gun owners by declaring a state of emergency for the rally. It’s a win because if there’s no violence, he can say, “See – we kept the violence at bay.” If there is any, then he can claim, “We did all we could under the Constitution, and this is why we need to have government control all weapons.”
A Set-Up for Disaster?
This reporter took a walk through the restricted grounds on Sunday evening and was frankly shocked at how few points of ingress and egress there would be for such a large crowd. I asked if the gates locked on Sunday would be open on Monday for people leaving the restricted area, and was told only one single gate would serve as an entrance and exit for the park. Asked if the fire marshal had signed off on what seemed like an arrangement designed to produce a tragedy, I was told by the Capitol Police officer, “I don’t work for the fire marshal.”
Van Cleave proclaimed that his organization’s membership has increased by 300% since the state’s November elections – when a Democrat majority was put into place and began executing a host of anti-gun laws – and stated that things had gotten so big thanks to Governor Northam. Asked if he was worried about Monday, he replied, “[O]f course.” He said:
“We just want to protect a basic human civil right, the right to protect yourself. That’s all. That’s what this is about. It’s not about flags, it’s not about race, it’s not about religion. It’s about protecting the rights of everybody to protect their life.”
Stay tuned today for live coverage of the event, presented by Liberty Nation.
* The author has been a member of the VCDL
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.