Anti-gun groups in Virginia are trying to block a gun-rights rally at the state capital by scheduling their own rallies for January 18, 2021. The Virginia Citizen’s Defense League has for the last 17 years held a pro-gun rally on that day, and last year the event drew over 20,000 pro-gun protestors.
“Games are being played to silence us,” Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) told his members in an email Tuesday.
Van Cleave claims he was told by state officials that organizations cannot apply for a permit to use the Capitol Square more than six months prior to their requested date. Every year, the VCDL applies for a permit exactly six months before January 18, and every year their application is approved.
But this year, he was told that the only times available on January 18 were 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. He discovered using a Freedom of Information Act request that four progressive groups – including two anti-gun groups – had applied and been approved for permits on January 18 by requesting them over a year in advance.
Lori Haas, a leader of one of the gun-control groups, told the Washington Post that she requested the 2021 date while canceling her group’s permit application for 2020. Her organization, The Virginia Center For Public Safety, usually holds a rally on January 18 but decided to cancel after the VCDL rally began to gain national attention. In calling to cancel, she asked to grab the same date the next year.
“There’s nothing nefarious, nothing underhanded, nothing untoward that I know of that took place,” Haas told the Post.
But Van Cleave sees an organized effort among the groups that all requested permits for the same day.
“All self-proclaimed progressive organizations, all magically within a few days of Goddard’s application, and all before VCDL’s Lobby Day 2020!” he said in an email.
In response, Van Cleave and his group are planning a drive-through rally similar to the “Rolling Thunder” event in D.C. and the more recent lockdown protests.
“If the Governor and the Democrats in the General Assembly want to play games in order to suppress our right to free speech, then we’ll play a game of our own: it’s called #Rolling4the2A, and this they can’t stop,” he said.
He encouraged VCDL supporters to pack the streets of Richmond by joining one of four caravans that will drive through Virginia and meet in the state capital on January 18.
“The four major caravans will all flood into the Richmond area over a 4-hour period in the afternoon and will pass through the center of Richmond, near wherever the Senate is meeting,” Van Cleave said.
Van Cleave plans to announce when the caravans will be arriving at locations throughout the state, and he says he’ll rent buses for those who can’t drive but want to participate.
“I’ll see you at #Rolling4the2A on January 18, 2021! And for those of you from other states, come join us! Richmond, here we come!” he said.