John Fredericks, an influential Virginia radio host connected to President Donald Trump’s campaign, joined former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke Jr. in suggesting that the thousands of people expected to descend on Richmond, Virginia, for a contentious pro-gun rally Monday should charge through the police lines securing the capitol against credible threats of extremist violence.
Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun group, organized the Jan. 20 “Lobby Day” event to voice its opposition to gun control legislation introduced in the state legislature. The event has captured the attention of pro-gun organizations across the nation, including the National Rifle Association, in addition to far-right groups and militia organizations that have expressed their intentions to attend the event. On Thursday, the FBI arrested three suspected neo-Nazis that planned to travel to the event with firearms.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in response to what he said were credible threats of violence from “armed militia groups” and the same type of “extremist rhetoric” law enforcement witnessed before the Unite the Right white supremacist gathering in 2017, which turned deadly. The state of the emergency includes a temporary firearm ban on Capitol grounds while the rally takes place on Monday and provides law enforcement with additional resources.
This intelligence suggests militia groups and hate groups, some from out of state, plan to come to the Capitol to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) January 15, 2020
Northam’s measures to secure the event enraged Fredericks. Last year, we reported Fredericks was seeking the position of chairman of the Virginia Trump presidential campaign in 2020 and served as the campaign’s Virginia co-chair and chairman in 2016. Fredericks also uses his radio show as a platform for Trump campaign surrogates like Clarke Jr., who joined him Thursday.
Clarke compared Monday’s scheduled rally to the battles of Lexington and Concord, which launched the American Revolutionary War, and accused Northam of “provoking an incident” at Monday’s rally. Clarke baselessly asserted that there was “no credible threat” of violence at the rally.
Fredericks and Clarke lambasted that the Capitol Square in Richmond will have a secured perimeter and one entrance with security screening. Clarke said that police can “kiss my ass” if they want to try to prevent him from entering a public space and voicing his mind, before appearing to suggest that people who plan to attend the event simply overwhelm the security in place. (Clarke said he was not planning to attend Monday’s event.)
“If you’ve got 100,000 people and they’re pushing through, what are the police going to do?” Clarke asked.
“That’s my question. I mean, what are they going to do?” Fredericks answered.
“Nothing. There’s nothing they can do,” Clarke said.
Fredericks later added, “If they had just let this go—I’m telling you—it would have been a phenomenal rally, very exciting without incident. But now, it’s like [Northam] took a match and just tossed it on a fire, on a tank of gasoline.”
In a separate Thursday interview with Democratic Virginia Sen. David Marsden, Fredericks said that he didn’t trust Northam and that he believed the security measures in place for the rally were implemented for purely political reasons. Marsden explained to Fredericks that officials had determined credible evidence of violent threats at Monday’s scheduled rally, but Fredericks was ultimately dismissive.
Northam “basically effectively shut the rally down by saying you can’t come to the Capitol Square, there’s only one entrance, and he’s going to force everybody out into the streets, and now he’s closing the entire five-block area,” Fredericks told Marsden. “Just let them have their rally. Nothing was going to happen. The rally will come, the rally will go. But here’s what you don’t want: You don’t want aerial views of 100,000 people on the Richmond grounds protesting your gun-grabbing legislation. You don’t want that on the national news, because that is going to inspire people that owns guns who don’t to get registered and vote, and vote Democrats out. That’s why he did that.”
Marsden audibly sighed.