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22,000 attend Richmond gun-rights rally; one arrest made

Posted: 2:01 PM, Jan 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-20 16:11:53-05
22,000 attend Richmond gun-rights rally; one arrest made

RICHMOND, Va. -- An estimated 22,000 gun-rights activists and members of other groups crowded the streets around the Virginia State Capitol in downtown Richmond Monday to voice their opposition to plans by the state's Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation.

The rally ended around noon.

Only one arrest was made. 21-Mikaela E. Beschler was arrested for repeatedly refusing to remove a bandanna.

Demonstrators began gathering as early as 6 a.m., and quickly formed a line to make it into Capitol Square. Others congregated outside of Capitol Square along N. 9th. Street.

Many were openly carrying and wearing stickers saying "guns save lives." Others carried flags and signs that read, 'gun rights are civil rights,' etc.

One group of demonstrators held a sign that read, "Criminals obey gun laws like politicians follow their oath of office." They said they had come to Richmond all the way from New Jersey for the rally in hopes that the laws in Virginia wouldn't become like the laws in New Jersey.

"You’re never going to get the criminals to turn in their weapons," Bill Hayden said. "That’s why we’re here. None of us have committed a crime. Go take care of the criminals. Don’t take the guns from us."

Hayden, along with others in the group, argued limiting gun rights was an infringement not just on their Second Amendment rights, but on human rights.

"It's a right that's it. Just like your First Amendment Right, Freedom of Speech, Fourth Amendment Right, Sixth Amendment Right, 14th Amendment Right -- which leads back to the Second," said Mark Cheeseman. "There’s really no argument. It’s non-negotiable."

"I don’t see it as a gun issue, I see it as a human rights issue," Hayden added. "I think the human rights issue affects all parts of the political spectrum, regardless of where you stand or what you believe in."

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam (D- Virginia) declared a temporary state of emergency days ahead of Monday’s rally and banned weapons from the area in front of the Capitol building. State officials feared fringe groups could use the rally to stir up violence and chaos reminiscent of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.