The VCDL Shifts Gears for 2021 Lobby Day Rally
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, who hosted more than 25,000 firearm-toting citizens last January at the Richmond Statehouse — an event that electrified the 2A nation — has come up with an even more dynamic plan for their 2021 Lobby Day scheduled for January 18.
VCDL leaders are detouring away from a 17-year tradition of open carry assembly and speechmaking at the foot of historic the Bell Tower on the Capitol grounds in Richmond, and will instead organize Second Amendment 2A Rolling Thunder caravans to converge on the city from all four corners of the Old Dominion on January 18. Under the hashtag #Rolling4the2a, the plan is modeled on the the horn-blowing, banner-waving “Trump Train“ vehicle caravans that were so prominently featured on cable news coverage over the last year. Once in Richmond, gun rights supporters will have choices: stay in the vehicles and continue in “parade mode,” or hop out of their vehicles and openly carry their firearms on their afternoon walks in the city, all while the caravan drivers continue to circulate with flags and banners around the Statehouse district.
The VCDL says the departure times and progress of the four #Rolling4the2a bus-and-vehicle caravans on Lobby Day will be posted on social media so that participants can link up with procession on the way to Richmond.
Additionally, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave has announced that they are working on a plan to distribute gun rights flags and placards to vehicle drivers to showcase the caravans on their journeys to the Statehouse district.
“We will have flags and magnetic signs for all the vehicles taking part in this event, so everyone watching the seemingly never-ending flow of vehicles will have no doubt about the mission of those vehicles.” Van Cleave adds that there will also be “decked out buses wrapped with pro-gun messages” in each caravan for those that want to leave the driving to a pro. As for the patriots on the speaker’s roster for Lobby Day, they are still in the mix, too. Van Cleave says those at the microphone on January 18th will be connecting with caravan participants and spectators with real-time messages that will be channeled to cell phones, tablets and laptops, rather than through loudspeakers on the capitol grounds.
The VCDL’s decision to shun the rally permit process closes out decades of requesting government permission to assemble just yards from the Statehouse on the third Monday every January.
The current calculation is simple: gun rights supporters abhor “gun-free zones,” so quit participating in any permit process that — by law — will now trigger one.
Another way to look at it is this: the VCDL decision to step away from rally hosting means that all Second Amendment activists arriving in Richmond on January 18th will do so as “tourists” with a gun rights point of view.
That being the case, many are also now asking: what happens with the core mission of sending teams of gun rights supporters into the Statehouse to lobby the legislators? With the near certainty that the Virginia General Assembly will be closed to the public in 2021, the VCDL is encouraging its members to shift their advocacy to over emails, phone calls, and Zoom visits.
As always, the VCDL strongly urges #rolling4the2A caravan participants to review Virginia regulations relating to the transportation and open carry of certain rifles and handguns and, in particular, to magazine capacity stipulations. Links to this guidance can be found at the end of this article.
VCDL President Phil Van Cleave says this of the new strategy: “We are in a war for our right to keep and bear arms and we know that you have to be flexible and quick on your feet to keep the enemies of freedom at bay.” The VCDL decision to walk away from the traditional rally permit is just the latest plot twist in a political tug of war that has been going for decades. Those who have followed the VCDL know that gun control lobbyists have conspired with anti-gun Virginia politicians for years to hamper efforts by firearms activists to gather on the Statehouse grounds each January.
In 2019, with the Democrats gaining total control of the Virginia Statehouse, the animus emanating from gun haters was dialed up to an 11. Gone were the days of Democrats being satisfied with just denying the VCDL routine access to electrical power to run a sound system, or limiting the group to low-power loudspeakers that were not adequate to the task.
In total control and lacking any effective Republican opposition, Governor Ralph Northam — known in Virginia and well outside its borders as Governor Blackface for his shameful and racist face-blackening as a young adult — declared the Statehouse grounds a “gun-free zone” prior to last year’s Lobby Day.
What followed was the padlocking of every entrance leading to VCDL’s traditional assembly area, thereby forcing thousands of unarmed 2A supporters to funnel through a single gate where they were subjected to metal detector scans and bag searches. Most egregious of all, the scheme created an unconscionable threat. Thousands of defenseless citizens risked being harmed trying to exit the rally in the event of an emergency, or if there was an extremist attack by opponents. But the Governor and his Democrat overlords were unconcerned about the immense danger they had created. The Virginia state Capitol building was surrounded by fencing in preparation for the VCDL lobby day gun rights rally in January, 2020. Now, in the run up to the 2021 Lobby Day, comes word that gun control groups and their allies in the Statehouse employed backroom maneuvers more than a year ago to seize control of the permitted area where the VCDL and its supporters had gathered for 17 years.
The VCDL’s Van Cleave says their investigation shows the Democrats staged an end-run around the published permit regulations in order to poach the date.
And, according to new Democrat stipulations, any event the VCDL hosted on the Statehouse grounds could now be cancelled without notice, or even dispersed if — and Phil Van Cleave says this is not a joke — too many people attended their rally. Van Cleave says he and his VCDL leadership team decided that from any perspective, the 2021 permit pathway had simply become a quicksand trap designed to suffocate 2A activism.
“VCDL will not be silenced by the gun prohibitionists and their dirty tricks. Our leadership thought long and hard on the best way to make sure that our voices would be heard while doing so without putting our members in legal jeopardy. We will continue to either walk around or climb over the various barriers that are thrown at us.” As for the expected questions as to whether the VCDL’s “caravan-and-walkabout” plan can proceed without interference from anti-gun politicians, 2A activists can point to a recent Patriot Walk in downtown Richmond that amounted to a scaled-down, dry-run version of the 2021 Lobby Day plan.
It was on November 21 that a contingent of the Virginia Knights Militia conducted a Long Gun Open Carry on the streets that encircle the Virginia Statehouse. The Knights, led by their prominent activist leader Mike Dunn, strolled along the Virginia Statehouse fence line for part of their Saturday afternoon.
The walk took them past numerous city signs warning that “firearms are prohibited in public areas being used by, or is adjacent to, a permitted event, or at an event that would otherwise require a permit”.
The Knights walkabout was broadcast live on Facebook by the widely-followed videographer Ford Fischer of News2Share. Photos from the event can be seen here on the News2Share Facebook feed. During the livestream, a significant number of police officers were seen deployed in the area of the walk. There were no challenges, warnings or arrests as the Virginia Knights proceeded on their route. As the walk was underway, Fischer wondered aloud on his videostream if law enforcement was ignoring a direct provocation from the openly armed Knights, or if LE had a reason to keep their distance. Three days after the livestream, News2Share put that question to Richmond Police officials, with Fischer posting their response on Facebook: “[The Richmond Police Department clarified] that the armed activists “walked through parts of the city, observed all applicable traffic ordinances and did not obstruct pedestrian or vehicle traffic. As such the group’s conduct did not rise to the level of requiring a permit, so the city ordinance was not applicable to the event on Saturday”.
If the courage and resourcefulness of the Virginia Knights Militia is any guide, the VCDL vehicle caravans and “walkabout” opportunities will proceed despite all the obstacles that gun control groups are trying to throw down.
Van Cleave says his group’s decision to wave goodbye to the traditional Statehouse grounds gathering has generated new energy and a new playbook that promises to outflank efforts by anti-gunners to suppress the enormous participation that marked Lobby Day 2020.
The bar was certainly set high last January. Scenes of Richmond streets choked with tens of thousands of long gun open carry participants led newscasts all across the USA. For gun rights advocates the shift to the new caravan-and-walkabout strategy actually raises the prospect that the overall turnout on the third Monday in January will be higher rather than thwarted in the way the gun control extremists had hoped. As for the gun-grabbers and their poached permit, they have announced plans to rally on the Statehouse grounds on January 18th. They will be huddled in their cherished “gun-free” zone, but may be distracted by a sea of energized gun rights supporters just outside the fence line.
Suffice it to say that the anti-gun forces have likely come to the realization that their too-clever-by-half gamesmanship has backfired in a big way, and that they have now been outplayed by more resourceful bunch at the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Watch this space for more 2021 Lobby Day updates as the day approaches. In the meantime the VCDL advises potential Lobby Day participants to read the following links to prepare for any open carry of firearms. From the VCDL: If you are planning to travel with a rifle or handgun, either as a resident or non-resident, please ensure you are aware of the applicable gun laws. The Virginia State Police has some good information on transporting firearms: https://vcdl.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b28f1d9ea359b104b09836c4c&id=4de9d70550&e=262e176ce0 Also, Virginia code 18.2-287.4 regulates the Open Carry of certain loaded rifles and handguns that have a magazine in them that can hold more than 20 rounds”. VCDL advises that to do so you must have a valid Concealed Handgun Permit from Virginia or any other state. Any citizen engaging in an Open Carry walkabout with a rifle or handgun carrying 20 rounds or less can do so without any permit.