Massive gun rights rally goes off without incident; Gov. Northam takes credit for ‘de-escalating’ it

Massive gun rights rally goes off without incident; Gov. Northam takes credit for ‘de-escalating’ it
Virginia gun rights rally, 20 Jan 2020. Twitter, @Hirschfeld4VA via @MichaelCoudrey

If you’ve seen the video clips and photos of Monday’s gun rights rally in Richmond on social media, you already know that it was entirely peaceful from start to finish.

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Attendees remained respectfully behind the relatively flimsy barriers set up for the event.  Indeed, they respectfully toed white lines, as requested by the police, where there were no barriers.

People sang the national anthem.  They recited the pledge of allegiance.  They joked with each other and chatted amongst themselves.  They talked to media.  Some of them hoisted the flag of Hong Kong alongside the American flag and the Gadsden flag, apparently showing solidarity with the determined protesters on the other side of the globe.

In every clip or photo I saw, any on-the-job law enforcement personnel were gathered in small clumps, standing yards away from the rally attendees and on the other side of barriers, not engaged with the crowd.

The crowd was simply behaving itself.  The police were just standing there.  I’ve seen no videos of police interacting directly with people at the rally.  That comports with the news summaries that indicate there was only one arrest, of a woman who refused to remove a mask (or bandanna) from her face in accordance with state law.

At the end of the event, people from the rally were working their way through the departing rallygoers collecting trash.  (One guy said they’d be sending his bag of trash as a gift to Governor Ralph Northam.)

The attendees were from all kinds of groups.

If there were “white supremacists” there, they didn’t seem to register with anyone as a hostile element.

It was clear within the first couple of hours that the “threat” to public safety from this rally had been wildly overhyped.

There was one fellow (in the video clip below) who seemed to want to incite something.  He called himself a “libertarian,” but the group of demonstrators he was trying to engage were probably correct in their assessment that he was an Antifa member (or at least a leftist radical) trying to get something started.

Libertarians who genuinely regard that as their identity are very rarely the source of inflammatory incitement.

That particular video clip got a lot of attention online during the event, probably because it was the only one of its kind.  The Second Amendment rallyers on-scene were having none of it.  They refused to get drawn into a contentious exchange.

The bottom line: there was nothing to de-escalate.

That didn’t stop Northam from claiming that his “teams” had successfully de-escalated the rally.

His tweet was probably more for media consumption than for persuasion, however.  He needed something to say, when it turned out that the rally – contrary to his previous apprehensions – caused no problems whatsoever.  So he went with taking credit for the benign outcome.

All in all, there were reportedly about 22,000 people in attendance.  The media seemed to be hoping for blood and gore, and were uncertain what to do when they didn’t get any.

Some went with misrepresentations that were really honking weird.

I’ve listened to that clip five times now, as carefully as possible, and I have yet to hear anyone chanting “We will not comply!”  I do hear the crowd reciting the pledge of allegiance.

Many of the attendees carried signs that said “We will not comply,” and no doubt some of them, somewhere, chanted the slogan during the rally.  This was not the video clip to illustrate that with, however.  It doesn’t bolster the media’s credibility.

A very positive aspect to the rally was the diversity of rallygoers, and the opportunity the rally afforded to hear them talk about why they were there.  (All of these clips are well worth the entire time they run.  I recommend not missing them.)

A great many in the crowd came armed.  They remained in the streets off the Capitol grounds, as Northam had banned carrying on the Capitol grounds themselves for the duration of the rally.

Many observers suggested that Antifa demonstrators (who had announced they were going to rally “alongside” the gun rights supporters) made none of their typical moves to disrupt the proceedings because they were surrounded by armed rallygoers.

There’s probably a lot to that.  It’s a feature, not a bug; nothing in this world is better for anyone, when Antifa feels free to provoke mayhem and havoc.  Deterring Antifa is a good thing.  Too many police forces, from Charlottesville to Seattle to Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area, have been unwilling to exercise proper deterrence – or at least have been under orders from local political authorities to stand back and let Antifa run riot.

Interestingly, the police deployed for the 20 January rally didn’t look as if they were prepared to intervene effectively if Antifa started something.  There didn’t appear to be enough of them, and they were comparatively lightly equipped.

In spite of Northam’s earlier agitation, the signal sent by the police posture appeared to be that the authorities didn’t truly expect things to get out of hand.  Two reasons for that can be logically deduced: the main crowd was law-abiding and self-disciplined, and the main crowd was armed, and itself functioned as a walking deterrent.

The Capitol surroundings of Richmond were a very safe place to be on Monday, in other words, because the rallygoers were armed.

The peace and quiet in which the rally passed stand in strong contrast to the numerous outcomes when Antifa has shown up to harass other groups’ demonstrations, and the other groups have no way to deter Antifa’s tactics and must depend entirely on the police.

In those circumstances, physical violence and property destruction have been nearly inevitable.  This has been equally the case whether the opposing groups (Antifa and, for example, the “Proud Boys” or “Patriot Prayer”) showed up for the specific purpose of demonstrating, or Antifa showed up to disrupt a non-demonstration event like a Trump rally or a campus lecture by a conservative pundit.

The difference between those previous instances and the gun rights rally on Monday is that in Richmond, on 20 January, thousands of the 22,000 attendees were armed.

Virginia gun rights rally, Jan 2020. Via Twitter
J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.