Extremist militias and white nationalist groups are converging on Richmond, Virginia’s statehouse today, Martin Luther King day, to take a stand for gun rights — “or, in the words of some, to fan the flames of a civil war,” The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
“I’ll be rolling into town early. I can’t give you my exact time for security reasons,” said Christian Yingling, head of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia and a leader at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
President Trump has unfortunately egged them on, tweeting on Friday: “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!”
Pro-gun-rights rallies like the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s annual demonstration at the Capitol building today typically draws just a few hundred gun enthusiasts. “This year, however, thousands of gun activists are expected to turn out,” states the Washington Post.
With strict gun restrictions in the offing in Virginia, pro-gun activists have identified the state as a rallying point for the fight against what they see as a national erosion of their liberty. Of course, they have the First Amendment right to peacefully protest for or against legislation — with emphasis on peaceful.
However, as the Post adds, “VCDL president Philip Van Cleave said he’s heard from groups around the country that plan to send members to Virginia, including the Nevada-based, far-right Oath Keepers, which has promised to organize and train armed posses and militia.”
Guns are the gateway drug for racism and nationalism, and every time a rally of this kind is announced, explicitly racist and putative defenders of the Constitution hear the call. “Extremist groups have blanketed social media and online forums with ominous messages and hinted at potential violence.”
the latest of these hate groups to surface in the media with the arrests on Friday of some its members, The Base, supports a race war against minorities and the establishing of white ethno-states. “The group’s name is the English translation of al Qaeda,” reports NBC News. Their logo is a derivation of a symbol called Eihwaz rune, a variation of the Nazi Wolfsangel.
“[W]hile the ideologies of a white supremacist group such as The Base and a jihadist organization such as al Qaeda appear disparate, their shared desire for bloodshed only incites their followers,” continues NBC’s report.
According to NPR “Police have arrested three men in northern Georgia who are suspected of belonging to a violent white supremacist group called The Base, saying that they were plotting to commit murder and that they belonged to a criminal street gang.”
Another group on the move is the loosely knit brotherhood of hate known as the Atomwaffen Division. Founded in 2015, Atomwaffen members have been implicated in five homicides and several bomb plots and whose colors were prominently displayed at the at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. They are currently the subject of an intensifying national investigation by the FBI. Yet another new group is showing their colors too: Feuerkreig Division embraces violence as a solution to “fix” the current political and cultural system. The group criticizes and demeans other white supremacist movements, like the alt-right, for being too focused on public perception and unsuccessful in the movement’s ability to create real societal change with their tactics. Feuerkrieg Division is heavily influenced by Atomwaffen Division.
Encouraged by administration policy these groups have been embolden. That this gathering takes place every MLK Day shows the unfortunate divide in this country too.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →