WASHINGTON POST JANUARY 20, 2020 – The rally began with enthusiastic crowds gathered around roughly a dozen slated speakers, including politicians, conservative pundits and well-known gun rights activists.
Dick Heller, whose landmark lawsuit a decade ago toppled the District of Columbia’s gun ban, kicked things off by referencing the gun sanctuary movement in Virginia, which seeks to declare cities and counties “Second Amendment sanctuaries” that will not enforce any gun-control measures passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed!” Heller shouted, as the crowd chanted the text of the Second Amendment right along with him.
Soon afterward, state Del. John J. McGuire III (R-Goochland) — who is running to unseat U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) in a district historically represented by Republicans — stepped up to address the protesters. He wasted no time in invoking President Trump, who has been an outspoken supporter of the gun rights rally.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted a warning that Democrats in Virginia — whose General Assembly recently flipped to blue for the first time in a generation — wanted to “take your guns away.”
“Let me hear it if you are sick and tired of Republicans who do not support Donald Trump,” McGuire said, prompting a long and raucous cheer.
Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, charged Gov. Ralph Northam (D) with acting against the Constitution when he barred guns from Monday’s rally. Northam’s ban was swiftly challenged in court, but ultimately upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court.
“Democrats in the state are demonstrating … unadulterated power without authority,” Pratt said. “No one listening to my voice should never, ever vote for the party of gun control!”
‘Intel proving correct’: Massive crowd turns out for gun rally, fulfilling predictions
By midmorning, it was clear that gun advocates who had predicted an epic turnout were not exaggerating.
Thousands of people packed the streets around the Capitol. On Ninth Street, along the west side of Capitol Square, the sea of gun-toting, camouflage-wearing humanity was so thick people could not move. One group of burly men formed a chain, each holding the backpack of the one in front, to try to make headway down the hill through the crowd. Flags bristled from the throng — American flags, Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”) flags, militia flags. The crowds extended a block below, turned east along a state office building and came back up to the south entrance of the Capitol.
Squadrons of militias formed lines and executed marches, then sat along the curb and warmed their hands and rested their weapons.
reporter felt his bag snag on something, turned and saw that it had caught the edge of a long assault-style rifle. “Sorry, you’re good,” said the man carrying it, his face concealed behind a mask and dark glasses.
Another man carried a gigantic Barrett M82A1 rifle, probably five feet long, and wore a helmet and body armor. “It’s to draw attention,” said Brandon Lewis, who said he owns an indoor shooting gallery in Upstate New York. He had driven down with his wife to show their support for gun rights.
“It’s a reminder to our politicians that government is by the people and for the people,” he said.
Chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” broke out every few minutes, but by 10:15 a.m. there were no signs of violence or conflict with law enforcement officers.
“Intel proving correct,” Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said in a text message. “Big crowd, several militia members. Peaceful protest so far and hopefully all day.”
While the people jamming the streets were mostly armed, a steady stream of others carrying only signs and cameras waited at the 17 metal detector stations to get inside Capitol Square. A heavy and mostly good-natured police presence guided the lines and kept things moving briskly. Several officers joked and chatted with rallygoers.
In the square, people fanned out across the hill below the white Capitol building. Even within that broad space, though, the crowd was growing heavy ahead of the program of speakers. [Read More]