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‘We’re not going to play along with this’: Gun rally organizer calling for peace ahead of Monday

An NRA supporter challenges Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax during a brief exchange. Photo: Chip...
An NRA supporter challenges Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax during a brief exchange. Photo: Chip Lauterbach | Capital News Service(WHSV)
Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 4:27 PM EST
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Thousands of supporters of the Second Amendment are expected to show up in front of the Capitol Building Square in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday for a gun rally put on by the Virginia Citizen Defense League (VACDL).

Philip Van Cleave President, of the VACDL, who organized the initial plans, says this rally is necessary because supporters of the Second Amendment are angry at the gun reform legislation being discussed in the General Assembly.

“We’re saying no to all of that. I don’t care if you’re taking my guns or the next generation’s guns – we’re not doing it. We’re not going to play along with this,” said Van Cleave. “It’s a war on people like me and other law-abiding gun owners and we’re tired of this stuff.”

Van Cleave says the Citizen Defense League holds gun rallies every year with most of them being held in front of the Capitol. Van Cleave says the organization is used to seeing several hundreds of people each rally, but they expect Monday’s Rally to reach numbers in the thousands.

“We’ve done this since 2003, every year always peaceful, not one incident,” said Van Cleave. "We’re believing on the low end, 50,000 and on the high end, about 120,000 people."

While Philip Van Cleave is calling for peace ahead of Monday’s gun rally, Governor Ralph Northam says he isn’t taking any chances; citing state agencies who say they’ve received credible threats ahead of Monday’s rally

“Let me be clear, these are considered credible threats by law enforcement agencies,” said Northam. “Hate intimidation and violence have no place here."

In response, Northam

beginning Friday and running through Tuesday.

That declaration bans all weapons from Capitol Square, where the rally is planned.

The next day, Thursday, the FBI

who were believed to be heading south to join Richmond's planned rally with a functioning machine gun created from firearms parts.

Regardless of who shows up, Northam and Virginia State Police want to avoid a repeat of 2017′s deadly 'Unite the Right' rally, which is known for the murder of Heather Heyer by white nationalist James Alex Fields in a car attack, but also included violent clashes between armed protesters and counter-protesters, one person arrested for firing a gun at a counter-protester, a man beaten by a group armed with sticks, people attacked with tiki torches, and more that has been prosecuted in the years since.

“No weapons will be allowed on Capitol grounds. This includes everything from sticks and bats to chains and projectiles,” said Northam.

“Violence will not be tolerated, and if that is your group or your intention on Monday, then you are not welcome,” said State Police Superintendent Gary Settle.

“We’ve been in constant contact with the Richmond Capitol and state police, any information that we’ve gotten that looks like there might be trouble we’ve passed along to them,” said Van Cleave.