Virginia gun rally: Trump shows support for activists as thousands descend on Richmond on Martin Luther King Jr Day

Chris Riotta
EPA
EPA

Thousands of guns rights activists descended on Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia, for a rally after the state Senate passed a series of bills limiting the purchasing of firearms and establishing mandatory background checks.

Gun owners rallied on the streets amid heavy security, with many demonstrators holding weapons, pro-gun rights banners and wearing camouflage clothing. Activists were campaigning for their right to bear arms, which is protected by the Second Amendment of the constitution.

Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) declared a state of emergency and temporarily banned guns on capitol grounds as the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) held its annual Lobby Day demonstrations on Martin Luther King Jr Day.

The demonstrations come less than a week after the gun control measures were advanced in the state legislature, setting up for a contentious showdown between gun owners attending the rally and counter-protestors calling for common sense reforms in Virginia, known for its lax gun laws.

Donald Trump tweeted a message shortly before the rally officially began appearing to support the protestors. The president said: “The Democrat Party in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia are working hard to take away your 2nd Amendment rights”, followed by a call for people to vote Republican in the 2020 US election.

The FBI arrested multiple suspected neo-Nazis in the build-up to the event, who had reportedly discussed opening fire at the demonstrations and were anticipating a possible race war.

There were initially fears of a second Charlottesville -- when a white supremacist rally turned deadly in Virginia nearly three years ago -- but it was ultimately a peaceful, albeit tense, event.

Catch-up on events as they happened

Please allow a moment for the liveblog to load