RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Nearly two decades after the first Lobby Day event was held by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), car caravans left from at least 12 localities across Virginia and converged in Richmond throughout the day Monday.
Since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2002, VCDL has come to the commonwealth’s capital to advocate for gun rights. According to the group’s website, between 30,000 and 70,000 people attended Lobby Day in Richmond in 2019. The demonstration remained peaceful.
However, in a world of coronavirus concerns, 2021’s Lobby Day is expected to be different.
“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,” the group said in a statement on its website. “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”
Given the varied locations in which lawmakers will be meeting, VCDL says there is no reason to go to Capitol Square, as the group has done in years past.
According to VCDL’s website, caravans are coming from Fairfax, Staunton, Emporia, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Winchester, Bristol, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Wattsville, and Dahlgren. The first caravan is scheduled to arrive in the Richmond area around noon, while the latest caravan should arrive by 3 p.m.
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, the amount of people who came was nothing like what the city has seen in years past.
8News spoke with two gun rights advocates who traveled to Richmond for Lobby Day.
“I grew up when this country was free, and it’s no longer free and it’s getting less free,” one man said. “The Second Amendment protects the First Amendment, and the First Amendment and the Second Amendment are both under attack.”
The pair, who served in the military, tell 8News that they were discouraged after gun laws were passed last year despite such a large turnout of VCDL supporters on Lobby Day.
“At some point, when almost everything is taken away, what do you have to live for?” one woman said. “That’s why it’s written in the Constitution.”
ABC News conducted an interview with Van Cleave during Lobby Day and he says he thought the group’s caravans were effective.
He thinks their anti-gun-control message was made clear to Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia lawmakers. Van Cleave says the “peacefulness of their demonstration” is proof.
“The Capitol was locked down, state of emergency, we had press all over the place thinking this was going to be a major event and nothing happened, nothing, not one single arrest,” Van Cleave said.
The full interview can be viewed below:
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.