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Va. Preps for Gun Rally With 'Enormous Potential to Go Bad'

Capitol Square gun rights demonstration expected Monday in Richmond
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2020 6:21 AM CST
Updated Jan 20, 2020 6:48 AM CST
Fencing and magnetometers are set up Sunday around Capitol Square for an anticipated pro-gun rally at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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(Newser) – Law enforcement agencies in Virginia are planning a "strong presence" Monday as gun rights advocates are set to converge upon the state's capital of Richmond to protest proposed gun control measures. The rally is happening amid a governor-issued state of emergency barring weapons from Capitol grounds through Tuesday evening. "They are not coming to peacefully protest, they are coming to intimidate and to cause harm," Gov. Ralph Northam warned at a Wednesday presser of possible attackers from hate groups and militias he said he'd received intel on, per ABC News. On Thursday, the arrest of three suspected white supremacists believed to be headed to the rally caused tensions to spike further, followed by a tweet Friday from President Trump some say added fuel to the fire: "Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia."

ABC notes some gun rights advocates are angry that Virginia lawmakers have suggested a ban on assault rifles and other gun-control measures. "People are looking at this and saying, 'This is a canary in the coal mine. If they're coming after rights in Virginia, then they'll be coming for ours as well," Philip Van Cleave, head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League that's organizing the rally, tells Reuters. Van Cleave has decried any violence at the rally but asked militia members to come armed for "security." Some militia leaders fear a "lone wolf" could cause issues. "This thing has enormous potential to go bad," one notes. An anti-fascist activist begged counterprotesters to stay away, per Fox News. Meanwhile, the Virginia House GOP leader warned away "any group that comes to Richmond to spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest." (Read more Virginia stories.)

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