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Virginia Capitol Pro-Gun Rally Puts Pause To Lobby Day Events

Virginia Capitol building
Local organizations and individuals who typically attend Lobby Day will not be participating this year, citing security concerns. (Photo: Crixell Matthews / VPM)

Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s also the biggest day for groups and citizens to lobby lawmakers at the Virginia Capitol. But a pro-gun rally that’s expected to draw thousands of armed protestors, has caused some to back out. 

The civics education group Brown VA, had plans to bring people of all ages to the State Capitol Monday to see government in action, by meeting with legislators and sitting in on panel discussions. 

But, Executive Director Jewel Jordan said they’re postponing the 5th annual event because of the gun rights rally and possible threats of violence. 
 
“We didn’t want to have the children and teenagers that were there — we didn’t want them to see the optics of racist men with big guns,” Jordan said.

Other groups that decided not to come include Rise for Youth, OneVirginia2021 and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). For the last 28 years, CSGV has hosted an advocacy day and vigil in honor of Dr. King, which usually happens in the afternoon following a rally organized by the gun-rights group the Virginia Citizens Defense League. 

“The individuals who seek to turn a day which is traditionally about citizens exercising their First Amendment rights and participating in the democratic process into a platform for political violence are trying to destroy our democracy,” said Lori Haas, Virginia director of CSGV in a statement.

Ryland Potter, of Richmond, said she’s regularly attended lobby day in the past — to advocate for issues like equitable transit and redistricting reform. She said she was looking forward to celebrating the early passage of the Equal Rights Amendment at this year’s event, but her family has asked her not to go.

“There could be permanent and lasting consequences if things get out of hand on Monday,” Potter said. “I was encouraged to remember that I have two small children, who are looking forward to growing up with [two parents].”

Gun rights activists are protesting proposed gun legislation being considered by the General Assembly. On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in advance of the Monday rally, banning firearms and weapons from the grounds of Capitol Square. 

Northam also asked non-essential state employees to not come to the Capitol Monday. While Martin Luther King Day is a state holiday, most legislative staffers usually work because of the General Assembly session.
 

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