"Games are being played to silence us," complained Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League in an email he sent to his members on Tuesday. "This was a barely disguised effort to lock us out," Van Cleave told the Washington Post.
He had called the Virginia Department of General Services last week to get clearance for a second major rally in Richmond's Capitol Square on January 18th. However, he was dismayed to find that the only time slots available that day were 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. His dismay turned to anger when he discovered that the other time slots had all been booked by pro gun control groups.
The Patriots and other pro-gun elements vowed after last year's rally to keep up pressure on Virginia state officials to withdraw from the guns legislation that Governor Ralph Northam had actually signed into law in April. They had also promised to repeat the performance in January 2021.
The permit was not available to them that year because the pro gun control groups that usually run events in Richmond on January 18 simply hit them to the limit – and there were no plans. "DGS never bases any admissible decision on the content or the applicant," spokeswoman Dena Potter told The Post. "We issue approvals in the order in which applications are received."
"There is nothing shameful, nothing sneaky, nothing unusual that I know has happened," Lori Haas of the coalition to combat gun violence told the Post. She noted that his group had held an event in Capitol Square on January 18 for the past two decades, but decided to cancel last year when the competing pro gun rally became a national celebre.
Haas said she only asked to secure a spot the following year when she canceled in January and informed other pro gun control groups of her actions. She said they all followed.
Van Cleave and his "patriots", however, do not allow such small details as legal permission to stop organizing a rally on January 18th. He told The Post that his group would seamlessly transition into the model of the "Trump Train" caravans, which featured prominently in Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.
That fits, because just like the last big rally in Richmond, these events became massive crossover events, in which armed right-wing extremists mingled and combined weapons with supposedly mainstream Republicans and law enforcement agencies. In addition, as last January, the "Trump trains" became literal vehicles for the politics of brawl, which featured threats, intimidation and actual violence, as we saw when one such "train" attacked a Biden Harris campaign bus in Texas – which increased the roaring approval of the Republican establishment. The same model has proven its worth in the post-election pro-Trump protests against the state capitals across the country.
Van Cleave says this is the one who will show up in Richmond on a day when pro gun control groups are due to take effect. “Everyone will be adorned with flags and magnetic signs. We will likely have buses leading the caravan, ”he told the Post, adding that participants can stay warm and dry in their vehicles and have their weapons with them as well. "And that doesn't mean you can't get out and walk around Richmond while you're there," he added.