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Richmonders Respond To Gun Rally

Woman in coffee shop
Sofia Lakis works at Saison, which had a no guns policy sign posted for Lobby Day. (Photo: Patrick Larsen and Angela Massino/VPM)

On the door of a coffee shop in Jackson Ward, a sign asked customers to leave their guns outside. Barista Sofia Lakis watched from the window of Saison Market as men carrying assault rifles walked down Adams St towards the Capitol. 

“I was a little nervous honestly, working today, because I felt like I would inevitably have to, like, interact with these folks,” Lakis said. 

She says there is an energy in the city making people alert and hyper vigilant. “I'm like a visibly queer person,” she said. “I don't think that I'm the type of person that they want to interact with either. So, luckily enough, I've avoided all that so far.”

According to Lakis, the coffee shop regulars aren’t talking about banning guns. Instead, she thinks the issue of gun rights is being used as a platform to promote nationalism and white supremacy. 

At a nearby bus stop, Chesterfield County resident Emily Henderson waited with her dad to ride back to the Diamond baseball stadium on Arthur Ashe Boulevard. The two were in Richmond to rally for gun rights. Growing up, Henderson’s father took her to the gun range. “We just shot for fun, shooting is not like anything but like a family-time hobby,” she said. For Henderson, she compared attending the rally to voting. “You go and participate in something. I've never been to a rally before in my life,” she said.

Also on the street was Mecca Williams, on her way to a Martin Luther King Jr Day event. Williams is African American and believes in the right to bear arms, but found the timing of the rally inconsistent with Dr. King’s messaging. She said, “I feel that it was interesting in that it was done on this day, the day that we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, who represented peace and equality.” 

Williams’ recognized the convenience of using a day off of work to rally, but questioned why advocates didn’t come on a weekend instead of during the holiday.

For her, the day is a moment to reflect on her life, “and the rights that we have and what Dr. King stood for, but I do that every year. I live my life like that.”

*Reporting by Megan Pauly.

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