RICHMOND, Virginia — About 100 gun rights activists showed up Monday in Virginia’s capital city for Lobby Day despite heightened security measures that restricted their access to the Capitol building and to lawmakers.
State officials and law enforcement agencies said they scaled back this year’s activities following an FBI warning issued last week that armed protests could be planned outside of all 50 state capitol buildings in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol.
“There is a lot of [online] chatter about Saturday and Sunday, but we’re primarily focused on Monday,” Virginia public safety secretary Brian Moran said Friday after briefing General Assembly staffers. “In terms of credible threats — we’re monitoring it.”
Lobby Day is an annual event that lets Virginia voters lobby their lawmakers on upcoming legislation. Last year, more than 22,000 Second Amendment activists showed up to protest a slate of gun-control bills.
This year, though, Lobby Day looked a lot different.
Several organizations had their permits declined, and much of the area surrounding the Capitol complex had been sealed off. Those who came found police had encircled the area with silver barricades and closed off the streets around it. There was a noticeably increased police presence, and several armed guards watched protesters from inside the complex.
The lawmakers themselves had also been moved. The House met virtually to conduct business, while state senators worked at the heavily guarded Science Museum of Virginia. With the roads closed, some protesters ditched their cars and walked several blocks to the outside perimeter of the Capitol building.
Some carried “2A” signs, referring to the Second Amendment, while others shouted at the mostly empty building. There were those who took a more capitalistic approach and used the day to make a quick buck.
The pop-up “sidewalk sales” included white “Biden is not my president” T-shirts, as well as pro-gun hats, pins, and shirts.
One man, who did not want to be identified, wore a black-and-white American flag with a thin blue line across its center as a mask. He spent the morning hawking black-and-yellow Proud Boys T-shirts for $20. He had sold eight by noon.
The Proud Boys is a far-right fringe group that has been linked to violence and racism and has described itself as a male-only organization for “Western chauvinists.”
Local media outlets reported members from the Original Black Panthers and the Last Sons of Liberty, a Boogaloo Bois group, were also in attendance. The Boogaloo Bois is a loose-knit confederation of anti-government militants that have been tied to the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Unable to go inside the Capitol, some groups like the Virginia Citizens Defense League opted for a drive-by protest. A caravan of black cars, trucks, and tricked-out Hummers rolled past the science museum. One vehicle had a megaphone attached to the roof, along with a Virginia Citizens Defense League flag.
There were two signs on the front of the vehicle that read, “Bill of Rights” and “Geezers with guns.”