Illustration for article titled It’s MLK Day Everywhere but Virginia. They’re Doing a Gun Rally Complete With Neo-Nazis Instead
Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP (Getty Images)

This Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a day of remembrance when we honor one of the most renowned civil rights leaders in U.S. history. A man who certainly stood for peace, but, most of all, equality and justice. A man who is often made out to be synonymous with non-violent protest. In Richmond, Va., on the state capitol, a massive event has been planned that will be perfectly appropriate to commemorate King and celebrate his legacy.

Nah, I’m just messin’ with you—they’re having a gun rally with white supremacist neo-Nazis and shit.

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The New York Times reported that thousands of protesters are expected to fill the Virginia State Capital grounds on Monday to rally against sweeping new gun control proposals supported by state Democrats.

The rally, which will be hosted by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, was billed as a peaceful event to lobby lawmakers to defend Second Amendment rights. (At this point, I’m expecting them to lobby Moses to add the Second Amendment as an eleventh commandment any day now.) But news of the gathering has quickly become enveloped in fear and concern of potential violence and chaos brought on by the unsavory, tiki-torch wielding groups who may be in attendance.

According to the Times, discussions about the rally have, for weeks, consumed online platforms frequented by anti-government militia groups and white supremacists, and various extremist groups have vowed to attend.

Making matters worse, the F.B.I. announced the arrest of three suspected neo-Nazis who the authorities said had obtained weapons and discussed their own participation in the rally.

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The Richmond event is also expected to be attended by associates of Light Foot Militia, some of whom were banned from Charlottesville, Va., after the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, which ended in the death of a counterprotester.

Also expected to attend (because what gathering of white nationalists would be complete without him?) is prominent bigot and glass-jaw, human punching bag Richard Spencer who is currently among 24 defendants in a lawsuit over the rally in Charlottesville.

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In fact, threat levels have reportedly escalated so much this week that Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and temporarily banned weapons on Capitol grounds which, of course, only caused tensions with protesters to intensify.

So what’s the big hullabaloo all about? Well, the NY Times can probably explain it to you better than I can:

Virginia Democrats flipped the state House and Senate in November, wresting the General Assembly from Republican control in a state that was once the seat of the Confederacy.

Under Mr. Northam, a Democrat who survived a scandal over a racist photograph last year, state Democrats planned to make gun control a priority in the 2020 session. But the plan sparked a backlash in a state with a strong history of supporting gun rights.

After 12 people were killed in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach last year, a special legislative session to consider gun control lasted just 90 minutes. In recent weeks, more than 100 municipalities have designated themselves “sanctuaries” for the Second Amendment. Though the measures are purely symbolic, lawmakers and sheriffs in those areas have said they will refuse to enforce new gun control laws.

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So now the Virginia State Senate has approved three bills that would limit purchases of handguns to one each month; require that gun buyers submit to background checks, and allow local governments to ban guns in parks and public buildings. Or as people who rely on reason on a regular basis would put it: sensible, bare minimum shit that should obviously be done.

Democrat lawmakers have also said more gun control legislation is on the way, including a red flag law that would permit officials to confiscate firearms from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. They also want to ban assault-style weapons, but that effort has been delayed in both chambers.

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As a person who has always been pretty on the fence when it comes to the subject of gun control, I have to say, none of these measures seem to be very extreme. It’s not as if anyone is proposing to go door-to-door confiscating guns from any and all citizens, a fear that has always plagued the “out of my cold dead hands” crowd, regardless of how logistically impossible that would be. I suppose the bit about taking guns from those deemed a danger may raise an eyebrow because government entities deciding who’s dangerous and who isn’t always will. But, damn, these things haven’t even been signed into law yet. They’re still just proposed bills. So these people are gathering by the thousands to rally against the very possibility of sensible gun legislation.

Maybe take it down a notch, guys. It’s on MLK Day.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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