I attended the pro-Second Amendment rally this week in Richmond, Virginia. My hotel is approximately six blocks from where the event transpired, so it was an easy walk.
On the walk from my hotel to the event, I fell in with many other attendees. Vendors were manifold, and some were journeyman classicists: Gadsden flags, and paraphernalia adorned with the Gadsden snake and motto, barely outpaced “Molon Labe” and “Sic Semper Tyrannis” adornments to the naked eye. Many vendors entrepreneurially hawked Donald Trump and MAGA wares; however, regardless of the product, I did not see much business transacted.
The crowd thickened well before the security perimeter to get into the event. At one point, my progress came to a halt before I realized that I was in the gaggle of lines to access the Porto-O-Potties. The area wide around the Capitol grounds was, to borrow from the immortal Waylon Jennings, “filled up with law.” The barricades, police cruisers, and vans forced the crowds into very tight siphoning toward the formal event; however, no signage directed attendees to anything at all, much less the location of the event.
Carry, whether concealed or open, was not allowed inside the fenced perimeter. That did not stop numerous persons from carrying openly outside the perimeter. I saw one individual sporting a 1911 in a thigh rig, but the overwhelming carry of choice was the standard AR-15. Of note, because I do not suspect this will be reported: A strong number of the folks carrying ARs also had medical or first aid kits on their persons. These were not individuals anticipating offensive action; these individuals were prepared to help.
I’ve never been through security like what I went through then, and that includes international travel. The logjam to get in was considerable due to the thoroughness of the security searches. I asked the special agent in my line if I needed to remove everything from my pockets, or just metallic items. He responded that everything needed to be removed.
I smiled as I pulled out, amongst other things, two granola bars: “Don’t confiscate my lunch, officer.” He chuckled and said that granola bars just got added to the prohibited items list.
After removing jacket and pocketed items, I walked through a scanner and was still wanded completely by another Virginia State Police officer. I quipped that nobody got a day off today. He looked at me, and this is my impression, with exasperation: “Not a single person in our entire force has today off.”
The Virginia State Police were cordial, professional, patient, and even frequently friendly. I chatted with a number of them and saw others engage them even more. After the event, attendees shook hands, patted shoulders, and touched elbows of VSP officers and thanked them for being there. That wasn’t occasional; a vast number of attendees did so.
The officers I witnessed returned thanks and stated that attendees made their jobs easy. They are, of course, correct.
The crowd inside was diverse, cheerful, raucous, and behaved. Signage abounded, and much of it was clever. Manifold families were present with children, blankets, and foodstuffs. The Virginia Citizens’ Defense League, which has hosted this event for well nigh 20 years, has a round and hunter orange sticker that reads, “Guns Save Lives.” Almost every attendee sported one.
At the end of the event, we all picked up after ourselves. I anticipated this activity, so did not take this sticker, or any other, so that the detritus I removed from the grounds would be minimal. That’s my confession. I now look forward to skipping church this week.
Shooters could be observed on the rooftops of the surrounding buildings. Three helicopters hovered.
Several distinct groups could be distinguished. A group from Pennsylvania sported signs that read, “Don’t VA PA.” Harsh, but fair. Texans carried the familiar “Come and take it” cannon flag. One gaggle carried the “An Appeal To Heaven” flag. The Pink Pistols, a national LGBT pro-gun group, was present, as was the African-American Black Guns Matter group. An untold number of signs reminded everyone that gun rights are women’s rights and that firearms are the great equalizers.
The speakers were as you would expect and almost an afterthought. One made a joke about Jeffrey Epstein not killing himself. One chided those who attended but did not vote last November. One encouraged each attendee to bring 100 persons to the voting booth in November for Trump. The sound system was woeful and the cheers perfunctory. This aspect of the rally has been the meat and potatoes of the past 18 annual gatherings; they were an accessory today.
Leaving the fenced in area was difficult. Two of the entries were closed off, such that the gathering exited through one barricaded siphon. When multiple attendees asked officers why, the officers uniformly replied that they were not sure, as they were not told the rationale behind the change. It was, quite frankly, a disaster waiting to happen and I’m grateful it didn’t.
I saw no medical personnel until I was three blocks away, not from the fenced perimeter, but from the informal and rough boundaries of the outside gathering. The law enforcement presence was overwhelming but medical provision was inappropriately low.
However large the crowd was, the attendees stayed on message. I saw one anti-abortion flag, one anti-taxation flag, and a fair amount of Trump material. But so many protests, regardless of the stated issue, draw so many differing causes, some of which are conflicting. Not so then. The thousands of persons in attendance were there for one reason.
A group of roughly ten persons made their way inside the perimeter and marched around chanting that the revolution is now and white supremacy will not prevail and a better world can be had without guns. Many attendees took their picture and laughed, but no one engaged. Run a quick mental exercise involving a mass Antifa rally with ten pro-gun persons parading through and imagine the result.
All in all, it was a very good day. A large group of people assembled peaceably to air their grievances and to state that, unless something changes, our consent to be governed is being revoked. Here’s hoping that those in the Virginia legislative and executive branches listen.