Thanks to an encouraging tweet from Donald Trump, militias around the United States are preparing to assemble in Richmond, Va., on Monday, to protest gun-control legislation—many vowing to bring their guns, in open defiance of Gov. Ralph Northam’s declaration of emergency and its accompanying ban on any kind of weaponry at the state Capitol.
On Friday, Trump tweeted an attack on Northam that aligned perfectly with far-right extremists’ paranoid claims about the planned legislation: “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia,” he wrote. “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away.”
The Monday protest—which extremist groups are calling the “Boogaloo,” a reference to their long-hoped-for opportunity to declare a civil war against liberals—has inspired a number of such groups to declare their intent to show up fully armed. Infowars’ Alex Jones has preemptively declared that any violence that occurs will be a “false flag,” and has said he will be in Virginia to observe, because “we’ve had two revolutionary wars basically start in Virginia, and it looks like one may start again.”
Among the “Patriot”/militia organizations planning to attend are 3 Percent militia groups around the country, as well as the Oath Keepers, who specialize in recruiting military and law-enforcement veterans. Stewart Rhodes, founder/leader of the latter group, gave an interview last week in which he made clear his intent to use the event as an opportunity to institute “constitutionalist” rule in Virginia and elsewhere.
The violent nature of the “Boogaloo” was emphasized this week by the FBI’s arrests of seven members of The Base, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group openly dedicated to training for a “race war.” The first three were arrested Thursday, including Canadian fugitive Patrik Mathews; in addition to being caught with multiple weapons (including an illegal automatic rifle) and a large cache of ammunition, the men had spoken openly of attending Monday’s rally in Richmond and opening fire there.
Three more were arrested Friday in Georgia, charged with plotting the murders of a local antifascist couple, as well as overthrowing the local county government. A seventh member of the base—Yousef O. Barasneh, 22, of Oak Creek, Wisc.—was also arrested Friday, charged with committing civil-rights violations by vandalizing a synagogue in Racine, Wisc.
What the militiamen plan to do in Richmond on Monday is anyone’s guess, though a number of them have been indulging in violent rhetoric while discussing their options. Gov. Northam’s plans call for prohibition of any and all weapons from the Capitol Grounds, enforced by state troopers who have set up a security perimeter.
However, that is likely to mean that most of the protesters will be circulating around downtown Richmond—which, as in Charlottesville, is when and where most of the planned violence is likely to occur.
The invading army of paranoid “Patriots” have received official encouragement both from Trump (which was, in typical fashion, somewhat indirect) and from religious leaders such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., who called for “civil disobedience” in response to the Legislature’s planned gun-control measures.
“I’m pretty sure I’m gonna call for civil disobedience if the Democrats go through with this," Falwell said. “And the hundred municipalities and jurisdictions who have passed resolutions to protect the Second Amendment... I think the police officers and the populace would not be opposed to just disobeying, just like sanctuary cities in liberal states refuse to obey federal law when it comes to immigration."
A number of the militia groups that plan to be in Richmond on Monday include organizations that were banned by court-ordered consent agreement from Charlottesville, Va., following the disastrous Aug. 12, 2017, “Unite the Right” rally in which an antifascist protester was murdered. These include far-fight social-media personality Tammy Lee, a self-described Charlottesville organizer, who has been promoting an event called “Militias March on Richmond” and intends to bring her group, “Declaration of Restoration.” Others include such militia figures as New York Light Foot Militia member George Curbelo and Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia member Christian Yingling.
Joshua Shoaff, another social-media personality operating under the under the pseudonym “Ace Baker,” not only has been urging his audience to attend the rally, but has been issuing death threats to an African-American Virginia legislator, apparently with the approval of Facebook, where he publishes his livestreams for his 540,000 followers.
“You should be pulled out of office by the hair on your head, walking down the streets of the capital, walked up to the steps of a swinging rope that’s placed around your neck, because you, sir, are a tyrant and you’re committing treason,” Shoaff said. “And you would be a good example to set for the other elected officials who are doing the same thing.”
The Georgia militiamen who planned for a civil war in November 2016 in the event Hillary Clinton won the presidency, the Three Percent Security Force, are also planning to be there. Founder Chris Hill told Talking Points Memo that his group plans to bring guns, “using the Second Amendment to defend the First Amendment.”
“My rifle is not a weapon,” he added. “It’s a sign, it’s just like me holding up a piece of cardboard that says: shall not be infringed. That rifle says I’m a free man.”
Among the most disturbing communications are those emanating from the far-right “Patriot” organization Oath Keepers. The group has been urging its members to prepare for the rally for several weeks, claiming that they are working to encourage law-enforcement officers in Virginia to ignore Gov. Northam’s orders: “We are confident that many within the National Guard and State Police will refuse those orders and will stand down, but we want to maximize that outcome and we want to prepare the people of Virginia for the worst case scenario of attempted use of force by the Governor to carry out his orders.”
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes is particularly keen on the movement “Patriots” are promoting in rural Virginia counties and towns to establish “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in which any state-approved gun-control laws are declared null and void. Some of these counties, including Tazewell in southwestern Virginia, have called for “local militias” to organize to defend their position.
“We’re not trying to promote a civil war by any stretch of the imagination, I want to make that clear, but we want to exercise our right under the Constitution to regulate and promote the order of a well-trained militia, and we want to fund that,” said Travis Hackworth, chairman of Tazewell’s Board of Supervisors.
In a recent interview on the conspiracist “Power Hour Nation” interview program, Rhodes explained that he wants to use the opportunity arising in Virginia to realize a longtime “Patriot” movement fantasy: Namely, establishing “constitutionalist” counties in which federal laws are null and void, and the county sheriff is the highest law in the land.
We're seeing in Virginia, the rural areas, a lot of sheriff standing up and declaring that they will not enforce the new laws, or the new so-called laws, coming out of Richmond. So, that's a good sign and we're seeing that across the country. … So, what you have is basically a socialist, or I would call a Marxist, assault on the constitution across the country, and their number one target, of course, is the right to keep and bear arms, but not just that. Also, free speech and assembly, your due process rights. …
You've got a collision coming up in between the rural traditional American gun owners, quite a few of them veterans, in Virginia who simply won't comply and this crazy governor who thinks he can just use the National Guard and the state police to do his bidding. So, that's the collision course we're on, and we're now seeing in Virginia something we have not seen anywhere else yet, is we're seeing counties stand up and pass resolutions to form actual official county militia. …
I think this is the leftist agenda, disarm the American people no matter what you do. They're going to keep pushing. And so, you have to accept that you're going to nullify, you're going to have to defy and refuse to comply and nullify, but you should do it as a united county behind your sheriff, with the sheriff and with all able-bodied men in the county as his posse, but you should also, as in Virginia, you should form a county militia as well, under the authority of the county government.
And the reason why you want to do both is you've got a law enforcement function and a military function. The sheriff's posse is the law enforcement function and the militia is the military function, and I think it's also good because you might get a new sheriff that comes in and destroys the posse. …
So, I think it's better to have both. I think county militia and a posse. But yes, under the authority of the government, with all the people in the county united behind their legislators, behind their county supervisors or whatever they call them in each state behind them united as part of the government. That's what a volunteer militia would be, like a volunteer fire department. It's under the authority of the county, but it's staffed by volunteers. That's how the founders did it.
Rhodes’ idea is that once the trend is established in Virginia, it will quickly spread to other states:
Every sheriff should have a posse, and that's the first step. And you need to revitalize your militia system. You've got to get it done one way or the other. Whether it's town militias or county militias, you've got to get it done. And where you don't have politicians willing to play ball and do that, the people themselves need to organize and train. We're going to start training groups across the country for that purpose to get people trained up. Then you got to replace them, replace them with those who will do it. That's what you got to do.
And like the neo-Nazis eager to spark a “Boogaloo,” Rhodes believes the Virginia resistance could spark a national civil war:
So yes, it could come down to a standoff. That's why it's important for, like I said, we want to reach out to the state police and National Guard as part of our mission when we go to Virginia, is reach out to them and encourage them to stand down because if they do act under the command of the governor, they come into a county, and they're resisted by the local militia or the sheriff and his posse, it will kick off a civil war in this country. That's what will happen. There will be a civil war between the left and the right and we'd prefer to see that not happen. That's where it's going to go.
As longtime religious-right analyst Bruce Wilson observes, this agenda is very much in line with a longtime white-nationalist strategy first elucidated by William S. Lind, one of the originators of the “Cultural Marxism” hoax. It was refined further by such far-right figures as Richard Mack (who followed Rhodes on the recent radio-interview program), leader of the Constitutional Peace Officers Association of America, a far-right law-enforcement outfit closely associated in recent years with armed “Patriot” standoffs in Bunkerville, Nev., and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Wilson notes that “this isn't just about an inchoate mass of angry gun owners descending on Richmond. In the background there's sustained organizing by CSPOA and other groups. The vision is to create citizens militias, under county sheriffs, in as many counties across the U.S. as possible. Such a development would be quite hard for state and federal authorities to counter, because an open shooting war would merely swell the citizen militia ranks tenfold. And consider a confrontation between state/federal troops or police and these militias (or ‘posses’); if shooting breaks out, the state/federal authorities lose. And if they back down, they also lose.”