Estimated 22,000 people gather at and around Virginia’s Capitol for gun-rights rally

Posted at 4:29 AM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 04:31:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. - State officials and U.S. hate-monitoring groups were warning about the potential for violence ahead of a gun-rights rally in Virginia that  brought an estimated 22,000 people to Richmond Monday.

Richmond streets saw an even larger crowd than the Virginia Capitol rally. Officials estimate there were about 6,000 people at the Capitol and 16,000 outside the gates. There, a lot of gun rights advocates showed their support by openly carrying firearms. The crowd was passionate but largely peaceful.

News 3 talked to a Virginia Beach gun owner who said he hopes the crowd size sends a message to state lawmakers that a lot of people will fight back against gun control.

“Our rights are pretty sacred to us and we’ve fought for them as long as we’ve been a country. If we don’t come out and defend them now, we could lose them," Jimmy Frost said.

Citing credible threats of violence, Gov. Ralph Northam previously declared a temporary state of emergency days ahead of Monday’s rally, banning all weapons including guns from Capitol Square.

Northam’s emergency order banned weapons of all kinds, including firearms, from the Capitol grounds starting Friday because of potential violence during the gun rights rally.

Click here for full coverage of the Richmond gun-rights rally on Lobby Day

A gun rights groups tried to overturn the ban, saying Northam doesn't have the authority to implement it, but a judge disagreed.

Locally, busloads of people from Hampton Roads attended the rally. Among them was Frost. He planed to respect the ban. "My goal is to just go up and use the first amendment to defend the Second Amendment. If I have to go up there unarmed to do it, then I have no problem with that," Frost told News 3.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said that threats of violence have been “rampant” online among anti-government and far-right groups.

Militia groups and white supremacists were among those expected to mix with gun-rights activists, raising fears that the state could again see the type violence that exploded in Charlottesville in 2017.

Observers said thousands of activists were already on site two hours before the rally was set to begin at 11 a.m.