The annual pro-gun Lobby Day in Richmond will feature a Trump-Train style rally in January 2021. The anti-gun group Virginia Center for Public Safety (VCPS) and three other anti-gun groups obtained permits for the Bell Tower in the Capitol Square early in 2020, leaving only a 6 a.m. and a 6 p.m. slot for the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) to hold its traditional rally. As a result, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said that cars from across the state will drive through the Capitol on January 18.
“We’re basically going to organize what we expect to be thousands of cars driving from across the four corners of the state, gathering people as they travel, and more and more people joining these caravans as they’re headed into Richmond,” Van Cleave said.
The change may actually be a better fit for 2021-style advocacy. Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders might have limited group size to 25. Richmond has also passed new rules banning firearms at permitted events in the city, meaning officials would potentially have enforced a gun ban at the rally. Furthermore, the Virginia House of Delegates will be holding a virtual session, and the location of the socially-distanced Senate is still to be determined, meaning that few legislators would be nearby to witness the Lobby Day held on Capitol grounds.
“The General Assembly building is going to be nothing but a shell, there’s not going to be anybody in it,” Van Cleave said. “All that matters is we’re going to be close by.”
Van Cleave said he had been told several years ago that he was not allowed to apply for permits more than six months in advance. However, VCPS and the others applied for permits for the January 18, 2021 slot over a year in advance, according to Van Cleave. He said that when he followed up with officials, they told him somebody had misspoken – that there was never a ban on earlier applications. However, Van Cleave thinks it might be part of a deliberate effort to block the Lobby Day rally.
Event speakers will be livestreamed on social media, and organizers will coordinate the timing and location of the vehicles so that supporters can watch, according to a VCDL news alert.
“I’m going to tell people to feel free to get out of their cars, walk around. If they want to walk around Richmond and see the sights, they can get out of the cars, be armed, they can carry signs,” Van Cleave said.
As long as individuals obey local traffic laws there shouldn’t be problems, he said. “You’re free to walk around armed because it’s not an event.”
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