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Report from the Front Line of VCDL’s Massive Second Amendment Rally in Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, VA – The massive Second Amendment Rally at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond just ended and, according to numerous reports, the event concluded without any incidents or arrests. Initial crowd estimates were set at some 60,000 or more people, though a later count released by the State administration numbered the crowd at 20,000. Buses were staged on many side streets away from the multi-block capitol complex. Interestingly, many of city’s public parking spaces were blocked off with barricades prohibiting attendees from using the spaces. To law enforcement personnel in the helicopters flying over the scene, it must’ve looked like thousands of ants converging on a picnic from all directions.

I arrived shortly after 8 a.m., the official start of the rally sponsored by the Virginia Civil Defense League, Inc., part of a “Lobby Day” event the organization has staged for more than a decade. I stayed until noon. Here’s what I saw and heard.

Many thousands had already been on the scene since the pre-dawn hours. Street vendors selling t-shirts, hats, flags, decals and more were in abundance. Signs, some professionally made and as many more handmade, were everywhere. Some signified that the bearers were from other states – Ohio, Arkansas, Texas and many more – and they were supporting their Virginia brethren as they fought for their Second Amendment rights during a 2020 General Assembly session where the Democratic Party controls the House of Delegates, the Senate and the Governor’s office.

Despite the crescendo of social media posts with rumors and warnings about “boogaloo,” apparently an incident of violent civil unrest, and organized, sponsored disruptors intent of creating chaos, the event was incredibly peaceful. As might be expected with any gathering of this magnitude, there were a number of colorful characters. Except for some strong condemnations of the current Democrat-led administration and its policies, anyone would have been hard-pressed to hear a single cross word. Instead, participants seemed to go out of their way to be courteous and polite, despite being shoehorned into a fenced, tiny box where jostling and bumping was inevitable. In all honesty, I was worried more about pickpockets than any chance of being maimed or shot by any of the people I saw carrying firearms in the massive crowd.

Aerial images of Capitol Square, the area declared a “no guns” zone under Governor Ralph Northam’s emergency declaration last week, might leave viewers to underestimate the size of the crowd. Most of the attendees, thousands of them carrying everything from handguns, to hunting rifles, to AR-15s, stayed outside “the wire.” Shouts of “USA, USA” or “We Will Not Comply” and more were common along every street. As some attendees stated it, they weren’t willing to trade their Second Amendment right to be able to practice their First Amendment right.

The physical set up, plus the sheer size of the crowd, made it difficult to move around. Temporary fencing enclosed the capital grounds where firearms were prohibited. Security checkpoints included metal detectors. All bags and jackets were searched. Some people who wanted to enter Capitol Square to hear the late morning speakers gave up because the lines were so long, although the queue greatly abated toward 11 a.m., as the speaking program was beginning.

Getting inside “the wire,” though, was anticlimactic, other than the view looking back toward the Pocahontas Building where the state senate offices reside. That view helped show the enormity of the crowd. The staging and security setup prevented almost all attendees, save a few, from actually seeing the speakers. Jan Morgan, founder of 2A Women and a speaker, grabbed a handheld microphone and came to the edge of the crowd where she could see the thousands of people below. Most attendees could only hear the speeches if they were relatively close to one of the few loudspeakers arrayed around the Capitol Square grounds.

The speeches were often passionate pleas for people to fight for their rights and calls to action at the ballot box. The government promised a strong police presence and delivered on that. Mounted police bicycle patrols moved around the outskirts of the event. Officers stood guard at government building and intersections. While the human movement plan was cumbersome and inconvenient, often making people walk many extra blocks in the sub-freezing temperatures to access the government, the officers all epitomized cordiality and professionalism. I felt sorry for the small groups of law enforcement personnel I observed atop the capitol and surrounding buildings. These, presumably sniper teams, had little escape from the ever-blasting north wind.

One group of law enforcement officers weren’t part of the official event protection force. These included the numerous country sheriffs and deputies. Grayson County Sheriff Richard A. Vaughan and a few deputies and supporters were located just outside Capitol Square, holding a “We Support the Second Amendment” banner. Two other sheriffs, Sheriff Scott Jenkins of Culpeper County, and Sheriff Danny Diggs of York County, were scheduled speakers.

Although not confirmed on an individual senator and delegate basis, numerous sources shared that precious few Democrat representatives showed up at their offices for Lobby Day, which certainly deprived constituents, some of which drove more than 300 miles, an opportunity to meet with them.

Now, for an editorial comment – The Virginia governor will likely take credit for keeping the peace through the massive police presence and all of the other restrictions that were placed on people for this rally. The fact is, though, these rallies, featuring armed citizens have been going on for many years – without incident, giving credence to the idea that gun restrictions for law-abiding citizens aren’t necessary and they certainly aren’t any solution. The people at the Virginia Capitol today, many wearing “Guns save Lives” stickers, represented a multitude of ethnicities and races. An amazing number of families were present, with children and babies in the mix. People don’t do that if they worry they have something to fear from their fellow citizens.

After the rally concluded, some participants broke out trash bags to clean litter and any unsightly leftovers of the event. This stands in contrast to some of the scenes witnessed in recent protests and marches in our nation’s capital.

The American people, the citizens of Virginia and the Bill of Rights were the winners at this 2020 rally. The attendees know they have a long slog ahead of them, but this was one event that seemed to fortify them for that march.

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