RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginians usually take to the steps of the state Capitol, the first Monday after the General Assembly comes together for its annual legislative session, to address their concerns to legislators, on what is known as Lobby Day.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a gun-rights group, is planning to attend Lobby Day in the City of Richmond on Monday bringing four caravans from 12 localities across the commonwealth with them.
VCDL has been holding Lobby Day since 2002, and it has always been on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This year with COVID-19 things will be a little different.
The non-profit said they have four main caravans left from Fairfax, Hampton, Emporia and Staunton and was lead by a “decked-out” bus. They said other sub-caravans would converge with the main ones. While VCDL brought more than 20,000 people to the event last year.
The caravans will arrive and leave Richmond at different points but they will all pass through Richmond on Broad Street between I195 and I95. The earliest ones arrived around noon, and the latest at about 3 p.m.
The VCDL posted the following guidelines for their caravan:
Anyone wishing to visit downtown Richmond, feel free to park and walk around downtown. You can be armed and carry a sign, as VCDL is not doing an event in Richmond. Don’t block the sidewalks and don’t block traffic and you’ll be fine. If you don’t have a CHP from Virginia or some other state, don’t have a magazine in your openly-carried gun that can hold more than 20 rounds. You can have larger magazines on your person, but don’t put them in the gun. Also, whether you have a CHP or not, don’t have a loaded long gun in your vehicle while driving. If posted, Richmond government buildings and parks are off-limitsVCDThe Virginia Citizens Defense League
Monday just after 12:30 p.m., the Richmond Police Department sent out a tweet reminding people that the city has banned firearms at places and events including “gatherings that would require a permit are groups of 11+ people obstructing pedestrian/vehicular traffic in vicinity of signs.”
The group had peaceful demonstrations near the Science Museum where the Virginia General Assembly convened. While there was sporadic activity in the early afternoon, the amount of people who came nothing like what the city has seen in years past.
Some activists told a member of the 8News team that he amount of security today protecting the Capitol was “overboard.”
“I think they’re going way overboard,” said Carla Howell, a pro-gun activist. “You can’t have a safer crowd than a bunch of people who are gun owners and gun advocates. They’re very peaceful people.”
Christina Baker, an ER travel nurse and VCDL member, agreed with Howell, saying the police presence was unnecessary.
“Are they needed? Absolutely not,” Baker said. “Gun owners are some of the safest most responsible in the country.”
Part of the reason for today’s increased security is because the FBI warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington D.C. in the days leading up to Inauguration Day. On Friday, there was a bomb threat made to the Virginia Supreme Court building. However, Virginia Capitol Police said no explosive device was found after K-9 units conducted a sweep of the building.
However, Howell said those groups making threats are separate from the VCDL and its caravan event.
“You know, even if they were to try to do something today, they’re not going to get very far,” she said.
Former Richmond City Council Candidate Mike Dickinson said a group is planning to gather at the Lee Monument around 2:30 p.m.
VCDL said you can get breaking information from the event on your smartphone by subscribing to their Twitter account.